Monday, March 10, 2014

The Album Dream

A photo album was left in my bag. It was an album with pictures of her. Her parents had compiled it to document her childhood, with pictures of her when she was two, when she was four, then so on into her teenage years up to the point when she left her home and her country. It had an ornate red and white patterned cover. The pictures were arranged so that as you flipped the album through, you would go earlier and earlier in time. It was a mistake, I thought. How could it have ended up here? I should return it to her. I put it on my table. And then that was where it ended.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Lenten Passage

Almost closing time at the pub. I have prepared the bar for closure, but two clients linger still. They are old clients: Archangel Mike and Beelzebub. In most days Mike and Bub tend to come and go separately, and one would often come in just after the other has left, almost as if they hate the sight of each other and want to avoid running each other as much as they could. Today, however, they are sitting side by side and deep in conversation, as if they were old friends. How unusual... But a good businessman follows the will of his clientele, and so I fill them both up with drinks and do not ask too many questions.

"Finish up your booze and scoot, we're closing in five," I signal. But the two men throw me insolent soppy grins and wave me to ask me just to accommodate them a little longer. Their drinks have been half-finished for the last hour. Mike had vodka, Bub a cocktail.

Presently Mike gets off the bar stool. He cranes his neck to the left and right. He shakes his arm through. He does a small jog. He says to Bub, "Ah, I have put on some weight! I should get myself more exercise."

"Yes, you do, Fatso!" laughs Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies.
"Want to spar?"
"Yes, let's do it!"

Mike seizes Bub by the collar and hurls him over the counter, just as I instinctively duck under it. Bub crashes into the glass-rack -- Alas! There goes my set of glassware. There are shards all around outside now, raining around me and barely missing me.

Bub rights himself on the floor full of broken glass. He fixes his gaze at Archangel Michael and lets out a laugh, a horrible, reptilian voice, booming, reverberating across the pool table, the TV room and all of the pub. He leaps back over the counter with one leap! Ah, now he has pinned Michael down, by the leg across his neck. With a somersault Michael wrenches himself free. I stop watching and try to shield myself again. Crash! There goes the pool table. Crash! again! That was probably the television.  I shake my head in dismay.

At this moment, Mike grabs hold of a cue and it turns into a flaming sword. One! He strikes the Prince of Darkness. Two! Bub is now floored, and Mike is now holding the sword over his throat, ready to drive it down. Will the Forces of Good prevail at last? Apparently not! Bub has taken hold of a pool ball in each hand; he lets them fly at Michael's face. Thud! The first ball misses Michael and goes out through the window pane, and as it flew it balloons in size and starts to billow with smoke and the cries of tormented souls. That window is shattered. Oh my, and so were all the others! The neighbour's car's alarm is sounding also, oh dear! The second ball strikes the Archangel in the chest, driving him to the far end of the lounge, where he now lies supine.

There is a brief calm. I can now hear the sparks of electricity coming from the busted television set. Some of the lights are now flickering. The barrels have been knocked over, and the house brew is spilling out onto the floor. What a mess! I stand myself up finally, treading the mixture of cider and glass slivers. My bar is wrecked. My bar is wrecked! I fly into a rage! Who are these spiritual beings to do such a thing to my place? Who do they think they even are?

"Get out, both of you, out!", I holler.
"I don't want your meddling here! Oh, how can I stand even having a soul when every time it turns out this way? Who will pay the repairman now? Every f-cking Lent!"

Thursday, March 06, 2014

The Letter of Sultan Mahmoud

Wherein our fabled folk-hero, the Sultan, finds his match

The Mongols and the Khazars I have run through by the sword,
The Bulgars they tremble at my sight,
And the Muscovites scheme in vain against me.
But before you, my Queen, I am defenseless.
I am defeated by your mere presence;
Tormented by thoughts of you, I cannot sleep nor eat.
You are a pearl of Alexandria, you are a beacon atop the Hindu Kush.
Your name is written in the clouds,
Alas, how can I ever find solace?
O great demoiselle, if you would only be mine,
You shall have all my lands between Tarshish and the Bosporus
You shall enjoy the riches of the lands, the adoration of the nations.