Monday, 17 October 2011

Marley and Pork

Marley. This man's soul was made of tweed, of very thick tweed, and of an indefinite colour, the colour of grim tweed. A grim, tweedy soul, it was. He would leave his house at certain times every day, and walk round to the park, sit on a bench, the same bench every time, and think. He would then take the long way back home. He'd go out again, to the park, to the bench, and back home the long way. Over and over and over. What was to an external observer the same routine was a deep and exciting, grim and tweedy experience for Marley. 'There goes Mr. Marley', and 'I wonder what he's thinking', and so on. Others would go to the park to play and to chat, but Marley went to listen and to think. Listen and think, grim and tweedy. One day at the park, Marley met a pig named Pork. Pork told him all about his farm, his family and his plans for the future, and Marley listened to every word; he was very attentive. Pork thanked him, and went on his way, while Marley stayed on the bench, and thought.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Marley stood up on a train

Marley was slowly becoming aware of certain widespread thought patterns. He thought these could even be said to be universal. Recurring phrases and expressions he had heard were bouncing in his mind, he could see some faces, faces looking at him in disgust for not understanding the "only true way of living", irritated accusations by people, "live a little", they said, "you need to let go of your emotions", "be carefree". He could not separate the word "carefree" from "careless", he could and would not. They were one and the same to him. The girl with "Carpe Diem" tattooed on her ankle; did she understand? Was she seizing the day, or justifying her lack of understanding? Did she feel the weight or the weightlessness of mortality? He did not talk to her, he daren't. He was afraid, amongst other things, of not being able to repress his indignation; he wanted to lecture her on what it meant to 'seize the day', he wanted to tell her just how she was terribly wrong, wrong about everything, from the most general ideas to the finest details of human nature. Two eyes were staring back at him. He remembered he was on the train. His therapist advised him a few days before to try and engage in casual conversation once in a while; it would create opportunities for meeting new and interesting people whom he might like and maybe share some experiences with, she said. The therapist. What a flat, lifeless character she was. Still, he decided to heed her advice, just this once.
'I apologise, I didn't mean to stare, I was just thinking about a thing.' Marley said to the girl sitting opposite him.
'It's ok, it happens to me all the time. To be completely honest, I only just realised I was staring at you.' she replied.
Marley didn't know how to continue from here, so he didn't. He simply smiled, because he was told that people like smiles. "When you're smiling, the whole world smiles with you", so he looked around, at all the grim looking faces on the train. Did they need to know what he was smiling at to smile with him? He wasn't aware of any unwritten rules of smiling. Why weren't they smiling, then? "Laughter is contagious!" and he laughed. Not one of them got infected. Maybe if I stand up, he thought.

Thursday, 6 October 2011


Mark approached the therapist's door. He stood there and took a deep, determined breath, as they do in movies, just when the protagonist is about to make an important but ultimately life-threatening decision, such as opening a door; in most cases the actor, posing as someone either completely ordinary or completely badass (usually the latter), is confronted with his nemesis/significant other and engages in a bloody struggle/make-up sex, which leads to triumph against all odds/premature ejaculation. He had only recently discovered how much of an oddball he was, and was eager to find out to what extent his behaviour was out of the ordinary.
'Hello! You must be Mr. Hudson, how do you do' said the incredibly attractive and surprisingly available female therapist in a friendly manner, walking from her desk to shake his hand.
'Hi. Yes, in person; it's very nice to meet you' said Mark.
'Now, please lie on the couch, lie on this epitome of therapeutic sessions, talk as much as you like, and, when you cease talking, expect me to ask you how whatever it is you were talking about made you feel.'
'I feel better already' said Mark.
'Then my work here is done.'
Suddenly, huge, white and resplendent wings burst out of the therapist's back, and before Mark even managed to say 'farewell, my winged friend', she was gone, soaring above the clouds to some faraway land.
Needless to say, Mark was diagnosed with psychosis. But his days in the psychiatric ward weren't as dreadful as he had expected. The nurses tended to every one of his real and fictitious needs. 

. . .
'The man disappeared about two weeks ago, sir' said one of the nurses to the head psychiatrist.
'How is that possible?'
'Well, he is no longer here, sir, so it is very much possible. I'd say it's pretty much a reality, sir, and we need to accept it.'
'Will you stop calling me sir? And will you tell me exactly how this happened?'
'Yes, si- I mean, yes, yes of course. He was in his room, minding his own business, and I was in my office, doing the very same thing when, suddenly, Mr. Hudson vanished. Some of the patients that were in his vicinity at the time recall hearing a poof sound, but I trust you know how unreliable these... gentlemen can be'
'Could you get one of these... gentlemen here?'
'Why of course, sir. Mr. Marley has been patiently waiting outside.'
'Very good, send him in, please'
Mr Marley was brought into the office. He was wearing a tweed beret, and a tweed coat over his patient overalls, but these were not tweed. He had a long pipe in his mouth, but there was no tobacco in it. He'd be puffing away between words and blowing carbon dioxide like it was pipe smoke.
'Mark Hudson, you say?', he began, 'I knew such a man once.' He paused for what seemed a long time, gathering his thoughts. He then continued, 'It was years ago, I volunteered for an expedition in the depths of-'
'Don't you say another word!' angrily interrupted the head psychiatrist 'Don't you dare say another word! I know exactly where this is going!'
Mr. Marley stared blankly at him, startled by this sudden outburst. He then regained his composure, and it seemed like he was about to continue with his account.
'Get him out of here! What kind of a joke is this?' said the head psychiatrist to the nurse, before the patient got a chance to speak some more. The nurse nervously and hurriedly took Marlow by the arm, and showed him out.
'Now,' said the head psychiatrist, 'is there any half-sane patient who can give us an account of what happened?'
'I'm afraid that's not possible, this is a psychiatric ward after all, sir. As soon as the patients become half-sane, they are sane enough to walk free.'
The head psychiatrist breathed a deep sigh, like the ones breathed in movies, when there is no longer hope for the protagonist, when he is stricken by utter disbelief brought on by the devastating impossibility of his noble cause, by the realisation of being the only sane man in the psychiatric ward that is the World.

'He must do what needs be done,
for our end has just begun;
though his heart may well be pure,
pure is not enough to cure
mankind of its deadly sin
which consumes the soul within.
Withered, blue, a piece of shoe-'

 . . .

Marley was in his room-cell, reciting a few verses from his epic poem, whilst browsing Tweeder in search of grammatical errors. As soon as one was spotted, he'd take note of it in his tweed-bound journal. He would date and sign it, as is done with essential technical details in scientific studies. His latest entry read:

12 Jan 2011 - Subject: "MHudson73"
- Post content: "im leaving.... i cant bare this place any longer!! txt me if u need me"
- Analysis: No instances of capitalisation; lacking appropriate apostrophes; misspelled "bear"; various abbreviations.

He would then pause in deep thought, and after a while he'd return to his activity, alternating glorious chanting to mumbling out of sheer frustration for his peers' lack of attention to detail. Language is all, he thought, and if one cannot master language, one cannot possibly endeavour to understand humanity.
It was easy for Marley to criticise people's morbid indisposition towards method and rationality; what he lacked was empathy. Most of his time was spent in his mind, with as little interference as possible from the outer world. It was really no wonder to anyone who knew him that his case was clinical.
But things weren't always like that for Marley. In fact, just like in movies, the unwritten rules of flashbacks require the portrayal of one character's past self as some sort of an alter ego, a younger, idealistic version of himself, to better understand his present and future; there usually is a 'key moment', an event that triggers his inevitable transformation or corruption. I, for one, am not a fan of the most recent Star Wars movies, but Anakin's case comes to mind. A more literate example would be that of Joyce's Portrait: a flashback of his younger, naive self, that helps the reader see the older, disillusioned and solitary James under a different light. All this applies to Marlow, and at this point there will be no need for an explicit flashback; it will be enough to assume we all understand that he has become what he has become as a result of specific circumstances, though any details of such circumstances are purposely omitted, for the sake of brevity.
An ellipsis, on the other hand, can be used to skip straight to the character's last moments on this Earth.
 . . .

'Let me tell you,' said Marley to the young nurse, after a long fit of coughs, lying on the hospital bed, 'let me tell you what I think of life. It is just like having dinner, but in a terrible restaurant'. He paused for a while, staring vacantly at the floor beside the bed.
'How so?' finally asked the nurse, breaking the awkward silence.
'I will tell you how.' he blurted quickly, this followed by another fit of coughs, 'You sit there, and order your food. And there are others, I tell you, and no matter who you are, you will always be sitting at the very centre of the dining area. Others seem to be sitting in the comfortable corner sofas, and some way up high in the VIP lounge. Your dish arrives late, and it is not what you ordered, far from that! It is your least favourite dish, I dare say it is the most disgusting looking and fowl tasting dish you were ever served. You stare at your hideous plate, and decide you will try it, but first you look around at the other diners. They are already eating; they have just arrived, and they have been immediately served their finely cooked favourite dish. They are eating and laughing merrily, and you can almost feel the burning excitement of their euphoria touch the surface of your skin, being shot from their euphoric mouths and eyes and euphorically bouncing around the room in every euphoric direction. You decide that you will complain about the unjust treatment you are receiving, and call for the waiters, but you realise they are deaf and blind. You panic, get up and start running for the exit, but it was sealed as soon as you entered. You spend days, and days, and weeks and months staring at your plate, and grow hungrier every minute. You eat. You eat all of your disgusting food, and you die, a long, agonising death, and all the while others are at times joyfully eating, at times spontaneously bursting into song on account of their happiness. But the envy and hatred towards other diners and the strong sense of injustice you feel is entirely fuelled by a most dreadful illusion, as they are right in the middle of the restaurant too, on very small, unbearably uncomfortable wooden chairs, very much like the one you are resting your buttocks on, and what is on their plates is their own idea of a culinary nightmare, while it may seem to you a kingly feast. And they are dying too.' and he broke into yet another bout of dreadful coughing.
'Then, Mr. Marley, why are they laughing and singing so merrily?' asked the nurse.
'I will tell you why,' said Marley, 'but first, I must ask you a question. Do you always laugh out of joy?'
'I believe so, yes.'
'Do you not sometimes laugh out of sheer desperation? Do people not sometimes laugh out of insanity? And insanity is desperation, too. You, sitting at your table, in all your misery, see in them the joy you so long for, yet it is not there. It is nowhere. They laugh at their own madness, at the madness of the restaurant, at the madness of the world. They laugh out of disillusion, they laugh out of desperation. And you start laughing with them. You laugh and sing, sing and pray. Oh, the euphoria!' And so he coughed once more, and died.
He truly was a madman, thought the nurse, he must have seen some very bizarre restaurants; she giggled, then calmly went on to inform doctor Kurliz of Marley's death.