This is part 3 of the novel The Confessor of Littlefield
The Bi-Sectional Narrator
(Note: the narrator is Adam Umbrian, a 44 year old self employed illustrator who lives in a fictitious small town in the Great Lakes. He is trying too hard to write a novel. We never really learn too much about it but he is conscious of writing the story, to the point that his own awareness of playing the role of writer turns his creativity into an instrument of his own self realization. Gradually, he visualizes the evolution of the neighborhood through the generations as he conceives the stories of John Hapflik and Bill Dinklepfuss.)
Professor Cliffnut read my manuscript today, made some corrections, spoke of Hegel. Something about thesis and antithesis. He said I was writing a metaphor for my metaphysical and physical existence. I am beginning with the thesis and antithesis of identity and sort of making a novel about it; kinda like Salinger did with Catcher in the Rye. I can see that, I guess. At least Catcher has a main character whose narrative I can identify with, as I walk through my neighborhood and imagine the past. I don’t know why; maybe the tone; darkness is always more colorful than light.
Neither my reason, nor my Will have the ascendancy over the other, but before my moods, my reason and my will both cower. It is an amusing entity. I break away from him into the third person to try to observe. It is better than assuming that he is the I speaking in the first person. All I’s of awareness, trains of thought, are seen in the mirror by the voice of I, while I is awareness in motion. Who I am I do not know but the I is the only one I can know. There is a bisectional body in the physical mirror; two mirror images symmetrically melded together, and at the centerpoint are the internal organs, like a snake in the cage, coiling and uncoiling, ungulating rhythmically, pulling in and squeezing out the hapless barnyard animals and wild critters the I of awareness has commanded the hands to feed to it. The mouth with teeth at the top of of the conveyor belt oozes with enzymes, tears and grinds carefully filleted flesh to mush.
Well, I am a sort of a scribe, not a philosopher. The I uses the language of the We to tell it’s story to itself. It strains my dignity to be aware of this until I realize it is not the We that I dislike but the I with its foreign traits. It’s the We rubbed off on the I, the I made for the disposal of the We that the third person finds disgusting.
Must” is the motivation of my body engine. Everyone born on go, the spark of Plato given forms known but not seen, utterances to be spoken and later to be learned. The snake, snug in its cage, whining and babbling; it is designed to keep going for at least five decades before showing considerable signs of wear. But it must keep devouring if it is to keep breathing, keep moving, keep looking for something else to eat. Every animal appropriates reason much to the disillusion of those who are born in relative comfort. The pursuit of life is not happiness but to keep one’s orbit never far from the produce supply. And to belong to a group no matter how much of a misfit you seem.
The need and instinct to eat the barnyard critter belongs to the snake and its visceral lot; it is an animal need which encourages the reason out front as a spokesperson. It speaks about itself to others in the way it wishes to be perceived by self and others; always entering and exiting stage right and left. It posits that it has come into being through nature; that nature has designed it and could destroy it, while the theologians tell him he has no other choice; that he is not to play God. He asks himself, “if God isn’t going to play God then why shouldn’t I? Why has the We established an ascendancy over me with property value and economics, with penal codes that hold a contemptuous value of self as self evident that one needs an outside authority?
I admit some self condemnatory practices can be of value; “you don’t bathe often enough or pick up after yourself” are thoughts inscribed by my foster mother’s scorn. She often wondered where I had gotten my laziness from, as though indolence were a bad thing. There are a lot of fidgety souls, grinding and sloshing their way through the rhythm of their day, hasty as purple but bitter as yellow; but some people, like professor Cliffnut, are always a sort of cerulean blue. He is never in a mood to leave himself lazy; always willing to get along. He has a way of agreeing to agree. He doesn’t even look at it like agreeing or disagreeing but a matter of having agreeable dialog. If another is not agreeable, he once told me, it didn’t matter if he were Einstein, he would have a hard time convincing a snotty student of the theory of relativity if that student was convinced he, the professor, was just a dumbfuck who happened to resemble Einstein.
Childhood is writ large on my manhood with adults herded into social situations and the alphas banging their chests and sizing each other up while the cliquesters and the loners viciously spew utterances of contempt and throw their feces on the crowd. The females form cliques to look for ways to amuse themselves apart from the general population and to form alliances for various causes. I have never wanted to be recognizable, never sought attention, never wanted approval or sought the approval of others except when being detained in one of the state penal colonies; the hospital, the school, or the justice system.
I have a natural sluggishness. When I was a boy my foster parents always said I was using my scoliosis and concomitant back spasms as an excuse to be lazy. Which wasn’t always true. I just didn’t like any of my foster parents. I didn’t feel like doing what they told me to because they were mostly dismissive, ignorant and mean, with moral judgment and preemptive self denigration. Parenting before the age of 10 is most memorable for me in the form of reading scripture so that I would hear myself condemning myself in my own voice. I remember feeling disembodied while reading scripture aloud at the dinner table as a boy, imagining I was looking from behind my ear and down my neck at the book. I was never able to remember what I read. I was too busy with the performance of mouthing the words to think about them much. And then when I did think about them my conclusions were always different than my foster parents’.
Edwin Umbrian listens to the two girls speak uptalk and wonders when one of them will answer the other. All of those questions with handcuffs: I know, right? is to give and receive strokes. To live by oneself is to be a half wit. Two together act as traffic cops for each other because the animal truly isn’t ignorant unless half so; it needs the will of a partner to reach the full heights of human idiocy. This one time? I went to the bathroom? And dropped some stuff into the toilet?
I am not an advocate of any particular philosophy, Edwin. I have reason without sincerity. I am governed by false appearances and prejudice. I am capable of all means of conscienceless actions and would bring to another their ruin if it meant I got significantly ahead. Every life has two prices, that of the worth to the individual, and the other the worth to the We. The We is everywhere but the I isn’t. In space, the I can either be “has been” or “could be,” but in time it always is, either as Is or Is/was.
Bacon recognized the mind’s propensity to leap to conclusions, to fly to order and not move gradually from generalization to generalization. This is why it taxes me to talk to you, Mr. Umbrian. You don’t allow for conjecture; you’re dictating terms of our engagement, even if we are simply exchanging a stroke on the weather.
Idea: Pet Horror.
A Meyer parrot mimics the noises of the other birds in the house and maneuvers the owner, a man with an insane temper, into killing them. The parrot is also a mind reader and knows when its owner desperately needs to focus his imagination and begins a series of shrill whistles to disrupt creativity. After the owner removes the bird from the room he finds his thoughts have all been scattered into a myriad of mice mazes looking for the cheese.
The bird is actually an experiment in psychological warfare by a government contractor in the intelligence community doing research on cruel and unusual punishment. The bird mimics the voices of birds outside the window; the crow, blue jay and killdeer. He is Loki, Janus and the Mark of the Beast. His feet are winged. He runs from the tip of his owner’s outstretched finger to his ear in one second flat. He clamps his beak onto an earlobe and holds on, withstanding swats of palms and frying pans. A spatula, long ladle, or a ping pong paddle is needed to protect the man’s hand when he exchanges the food and water in the cage.
Once in a while, the bird comes to the top of his cage to get a pet. He knows the man is afraid, so he tilts his head to the side with a claw hand scratching under his chin as if to ask, “can I have a pet please?”
He barely misses the man’s finger with his vice grip beak after three or four scritches.
“Truths are only held as deductive as long as the induction supports it,” says Professor Cliffnut. “All truth is subject to correction and experimentation.”
“The law of family ideology is the overthrow of scholastic metaphysics,” announced Professor Umbrian as he stalked among the students, arms akimbo, and with thick black framed eyeglasses, broken and taped together between the eyes. His dark winged eyebrows and his more-brown-than-green sport coat become him. He is what the sound of the horn at sea looks like if you are an ear.
The other, the shadow is there in the parents who play the dual role in preserving a family ideology in politics and religion to justify prejudice as tradition. Do they lose right to the loyalty of the child when, at 18 their child is no longer welcome at the home unless it is a functioning economic unit, in addition to staying behind the line of family prejudice?
Random acts of kindness sans the idea of being recognized for them are virtually nonexistent. I imagine I am the angel among the We unawares. I am that person in the car in front of you and you are sure I am fucking with you. I haven’t really moved to within inches of a semi hauler at a red light on a hill so you could get into the parking lot. You needed a few more inches and had to yell, “fucking asshole!” as you drove over the curb and dug up the grass. To a judge, everyone is both, the guy trying to be considerate and the narcissistic ass wad who calls everyone an asshole because he is sure that everyone is “fucking with him.”
And Edwin, I choose for myself as much as I can, no matter if my presence is as an employee, or subject of the government with its hospitals, schools and judicial systems that induce codeterminacy over my I. I have been the same child for over forty years, playing in the field, throwing stones. No two totally agree on everything, do they, Edwin? I mean, even my I and my We? Your ears are pointed up, while your teethe are pointed down, there is balance but not equanimity in your eyes. I see what you have learned by the assertions you have crossed out in your old notebooks. You throw spitwads at your mind’s eye. “The things you believe,” your father scoffs with ridicule as he sees you reading another book. The I is a two point perspective to the mind’s eye. Mind becomes, creates, and must be in agreement with itself.
I see him over your shoulder, Edwin Umbrian. He glares at me and looks like you scowling at me even though your body has been programmed for cordiality. I imagine your other knew of or knows Cotton Mather, whom I see him glaring from across from Canada towards Michigan as a statue of an eight foot tall prehistoric bird; a symbol that personifies a dark entity of antiquity, a powerful force in the great tug of war between good and evil. (I thought you would like the reference to the Exorcist, Edwin.) Only, there is no tug of war between good and ego, uh, I mean evil. There is only a heightened , altered masculinity. When you look down and to the right, Edwin Umbrian, your other flees into your ears and then out your eyes. (Refer to the book Conquering Deception, by Jeff Nance.)
I wonder how I would see myself as the others see me; the old man who’s always in the kitchen window watching me; the homo who doesn’t make eye contact; that creepy middle aged Puerto Rican who stays inside all the time. I wonder what HE does for money anyway. Must get medicaid or su’um. Deadbeat cheatin’ the government. Somebody like that shouldn’t be allowed to vote. Never see innyone over there. Just another of the buncha common people cheatin’ society and playin’ with the devil.
Edwin Umbrian spies Mrs. Cliffnut’s calves and powerful thighs as she rakes leaves in the yard. His lips are on the peak of her magnificent tricep when he thinks to himself, “Mrs. Cliffnut is a good household manager. Wouldn’t want to live with her but she has herself together. No loose ends about her thinking. Probably has trouble knowing her place with a husband though. Not like Mary Tyler Moore as Mrs. Dick VanDyke… Too bad Andy Taylor didn’t have a wife… Mrs. Cliffnut is more like Maude. Hah! I could picture Mr. Cliffnut in a blue plaid 1970’s style suit and big, fat, flowery tie, like Bill Macy. Nice man, Mr. Cliffnut. Hardly ever see him. Professor, always at the University. Writing; history or something. Calm demeanor. Thoughtful. Only person I feel like listens to me when I talk. Doesn’t say much, though. Just chuckles and shakes his head when he’s walking away from me.
There’s that guy that lives below me. He looks my way and sort of purses his lips trying to be amiable or something. Doesn’t take a long look. Seems gangly and stiff, stumbles when he walks, like someone who spends a lot of time on his ass. He smokes too. Loud exhaust. Gonna have to collar him sometime. The lord’s gotta be seein’ what I’m seein’.
That’s what I imagine Edwin Umbrian thinks when he sees me.
What the fuck you starin’ at, Edwin Umbrian? Don’t you have some gardening to do? Moral eyes stoppin’ to stare, narcissism in your sneer, wiping your judgment on your sleeves. You don’t know me and I don’t know you but at least I am the one looking at you in the rear view mirror and not making a show with an icy stare. I have a concealed weapon because its others I fear; others like you Edwin Umbrian, who wear cowboy boots to church. And a clip on tie. You carry a bible wherever you go, usually in the breast pocket but often in hand. Your hard sole shoes make a racket on the stairs, each step an enunciating condemnation.
This is an enclosed universe even though it is expanding. Social media makes every fiction a reality due to the psychological attachment of every creator to their creation (profile). All reality is personified, a fiction that becomes a derivative, a relativism, a semi autobiographical deduction with the ultimate irony that fiction has become real because the reader responds to it as such and totally misses the creation as it is; makes associations and attributions as the We has taught. (Dr. Phil speak makes a genius of us all). The We is ahead of the I when conceptualizing. It ropes the I and drags it into the arena where the I straightens its tie and clears its eyes to see who it is addressing and then says, “yes sir. At your service.” It doesn’t take the I long to change out of formal clothes and blend in with the environment, until it can reconnoiter the situation and become an appropriate He.
Science is, admittedly, a tough subject for me, mainly because my minuscule memory portions out its ability in spoons. Formulas and machine language all sound like the snotty girl working at Burger King in Ocala, Florida in 1990, spewing static into my ear through a drive in movie speaker and then telling me I can’t hear. I have to sort out patterns, formulate them with Platonic forms and associate them with Chomsky’s deep structures; a language of synthesis.
Hairy Armed Latina Girl at Burger King in Ocala, Florida in 1990.
Scratchy throated, tank topped Latina
mid twenties, enunciates like a frog,
fur and teeth I see,
when she opens her mouth to me
which does not smile.
Her dark eyes do the talking
with furry misdemeanor eyebrows
reaching toward each ear
Her hairy arms ape movements
of a human beast
Her movements are linear and calculating
No flourish or invitation
acceptance or denial
I don’t give a shit about your I she says.
I don’t give a damn if you die.
Associations of ideas are attracted for an inexplicable arrangement. The mind is active, sensation in motion. The larynx is moving inexplicably as the infant amuses itself with babbling. With its tongue it feels dentals and laryngials, makes sign with sound, hears the adults using similar sound clusters. He mimics them and the mind follows, associates, categorizes. There is light, a parting from a vapor; the form comes alive. Networks arise in binary speed; a brand and model with custom options available that will lead to your ultimate destruction.
“Experience and induction,” said professor Cliffnut, “are possible because we are born with linguistic functionality, with a mind that comes to order through a network of components. The components work in unison as a network aware of itself, calculating and lucid. They are one voice that compartmentalizes itself into various functions.”
But my other isn’t arguing with induction or deduction, systemic measurement. “Control the environment to control behavior,” says the parent who sends junior to his room. But that is roleplaying. The environment is controlled, not by bitching, not by assigning solitary consignment but by making the child stay in your presence while you calmly keep your temper in check. But that’s not a characteristic any of my dads had at their disposal. “At least he’s not as bad as what some others might’ve done,” says the celebrated psychologist on a Youtube video that I come across while googling the search string “bitching to myself.” Deduction is the parent Apollo who always holds the authority, while the I is Dionysian, the solitary induction voice going off to his room with no phone.
It is for fear and dislike that I have this awareness of making appearance as a plastic figure; a symbol within the Apollonian social structure. This awareness promotes the desire to be alone into a sensible disengagement from the real world fantasy created and promoted by others. America is alive with beetles under leaves, scattering when the darkness is lifted, sharpening their bites, ripping, chewing, spitting a long goober at you and then assuring you they are up for some game or another.
Hey, do you remember when we were younger, Edwin, when we had wings on our ankles like Dionysus? Now Apollo jeers us as we languish forward, “been jumping around in the bushes again, have you?” And we say, “shut the fuck up, you devil! You make the discs in my neck dig sharper into my nerves.” And Apollo doesn’t like that and tries to make masturbation a privilege and not a right.