Brains don’t help in most situations. In fact, they’re often a liability. People don’t like smart guys, they like sincere, hard-working normal Joes. So if you happen to be extremely intelligent, don’t wear your smarts on your sleeve. Keep them secret and use them in situations where a favorable outcome will make you seem simply lucky.
All the best film actors know this trick. Play stupid and you’ll make the audience feel smart. Let them see you strain to make sense of your character’s predicament. Allow them to see the wheels turning in his or her tiny brain.
Sympathy begins to have a chance when you stop threatening people. Stupid people know this deep-down, and use it to their advantage whenever their intelligence fails them. They affect a puppy-dog look complete with big, watery, sad eyes.
Just ordinary people came, the kind you see all the time. Not especially smart or good looking, they came in droves and stood waiting for something to happen. Only nothing happened. No one told them what to do and eventually they drifted away, going back where they came from.
There was nothing you could say about them that would paint a clear picture. Some were fat, some thin, some young, some old. I got the impression they didn’t think they were “special” in any way. They just wanted to show up in case somebody was giving away something for free, or there was a party of some kind going on. Some fun to be had.
Garden-variety people, the kind who don’t make enormous waves as they wade through the waters of life, are still good for something. They form an audience, if not actors. They’re the customer base for business, voters for politicians, what the Germans called the “lumpenproletariat.” Despise them at your own risk.
I am one of them. In fact, I have hopes of being elected their leader, not because of any special qualities I might posses, but rather because I am so hopelessly ordinary. My subjects are made of the same stuff as is their King.
And as a King, I will not have to wait long for a Queen to appear. Ambitious women abound. One will soon sit at my right hand and if, for some reason, I should falter, fail or sicken, she will be the power behind the throne. This is the way it has always been done, and this method has stood the test of time.
But please, don’t tell anyone. Don’t spill the beans. For my plan to be effective, it must remain a secret.
I promise to rule wisely, and fairness will be by motto. Fairness and enlightened self-interest. You will always know why I do what I do, because my motives will be transparent. I’m in it for me. Simple. Obvious. No deception needed.
I was correct, it didn’t take long for my Queen to appear. Her name was Tiffany, and she was enrolled in pre-dental hygiene at our local community college. Her sister Brandi was already a practicing hygienist and encourage her younger sister to take the leap. Their family was as common as families around here get to be. Mom was a licensed practical nurse, and Dad sold used cars. They lived in a new-ish double wide trailer and kept two dogs that barked a lot.
Tiffany latched onto me and wouldn’t let go. When I told her my plans for us, she got “super excited” and started planning our elaborate coronation ceremony. I cautioned her that we had to pretend to be a bit like England, where the royalty part was merely window dressing to a typical democracy, but she didn’t let that slow her down.
Every time I came up with a manifesto or proclamation, she would protest that it was too complicated. We needed to appeal to a third-grade level and this was strictly junior high. We couldn’t expect to garner popular support by going highbrow. I decided to trust her instincts. She and her family had their finger on the pulse of the nation more than I.
The royalty part would make it easier for our subjects to think of us as the mother and father of the nation. From now on Father’s Day would be my birthday, and Mother’s Day, hers. In an ostentatious display of compassion, we would hand out Christmas presents to be poor, presents that were paid for by taxpayers of our nation. In this way, we were inspired by many of the actions of Juan and Eva Peron, of Argentina.
Eventually, a few academic consultants persuaded us to drop the royalty aspect. Prime Minister or President would have to suffice. Titles like “Father and Mother of the Nation” were acceptable, but nothing more royal than that. We were free, of course, to devise our own ceremonies, rituals, ranks and honors. These would ensure loyalty and give the common man and woman something to admire.
Sure enough, we began to feel the first pangs of royal intrigue when her family members wanted to be venerated by royal rank. So we bailed on the royal thing just in time. Instead, we appointed them cabinet members, advisers, ambassadors. Dad became the Minister of Transportation. Brandy, the Minister of Health. The list increased daily.
The nation had not yet confirmed their desire for us to rule, but we could feel it all around us. Oh, it was hard for us to wait for that wave of popular will that would soon propel us into the “Beige Bunker” as we called the cement fortress that had always housed our executive family. We were not impatient, just eager to be of service. We were overwhelmed with patriotic fervor.
There was, however, a dark side to all this. Even though they kept their sentiments secret, there were those who were not on our side. We had enemies. They manipulated the minds of the elite. Even though their writings could not be understood by the common man, they were surprisingly effective in painting a picture of us as ambitious dimwits. The rumors found their way into print and onto social media. They mocked us!
The arrests came like lightning. Suddenly, we were hauled before a court of people we had never seen before and found guilty of sedition. All I remember is the “may God have mercy on your souls” part.
Our country still used the guillotine, and one was assembled in the main square. As the patriarch of our movement, I was to be beheaded last. From my cell I heard the vast crowd roar several times before I was escorted, blinking from the gloom of the Beige Bunker and into the sunlight.
As I stood on the platform where I was read the official charges against me by a hooded man, I glanced down to see the box that would momentarily receive my severed head. There were the heads of my family members staring up at me in wide-eyed disbelief. Brandi’s mouth was open, as if she were trying to say something. Too late, I’m afraid.
I knelt, and accepted my fate with as much dignity as I could muster. For I was a common man surrounded by my peers who had already decided my fate for me. My garden-variety head would soon join the others in that box. I heard crows calling to one another, and in the distance, a lawn mower. Someone was enjoying this autumn morning. I held my breath.
I found it in the driveway. Thought maybe it was a tropical plant or a branch of a tree, or perhaps a reptile that had been run over by a car. It seemed to have once been alive. I took it into the garage and left it on a pile of tarps. I could examine it later when I had more time.
But first I had to get to my daily piano practice. Half an hour a day, no more, no less. I really enjoy my time in my study. The soothing pastel colors allow me to relax and focus, something that I value even more now in these days since I was released from the mental institution.
There was a time, not too long ago, when I was on top the world. Women couldn’t get enough of me. Employers sought me out. I had so many offers that it literally made my head spin. And that’s how I ended up needing professional care.
Then I got a job entertaining at a motel cocktail lounge. It was a little hotel, with a little pool and a tiny lounge bar, but it was enough for me. I was starting to reconnect with the outside world. I no longer drooled when I got dressed in the morning.
Truth is, I only knew three or four songs on the keyboard, but that was enough to fill most of the time and we had so few customers those that came were happy to hear my New York New York/Changes/Younger Than Springtime medley. Looking back on that time, I can truly say those days were some of my happiest.
But getting back to the thing I found in the driveway. It turns out it’s an extra-dimensional parasite that lodges in your spine and the only way you can extract it is by screaming. Isn’t life strange?
I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Tests show that the fungus has invaded every part of your body, even crossing the blood/brain barrier. Frankly, we’re surprised you’re still lucid and ambulatory. Most people in your condition are already on life support.
Maybe your fungus is a more benign variety than the ones we’ve seen in the past. You also seem to lack to characteristic odor of bitter lemon that was so evident in the others who suffered from your condition. Fortunately, most of the time their period of suffering was brief. In one case, death followed diagnosis within hours!
But again, my goal is not to alarm you or make light of your plight. If there were a proven treatment, we would try it, no matter how slim the chances of success. But there is no such treatment. The fungus always wins. We can only urge you to get your affairs in order while you still have the strength to do so.
The fungus is intelligent. Do not fool yourself into thinking that you can outsmart it, for it has resisted all treatments and man-made remedies for eons. Like slime mold, it is more than a single organism. It is a community. There is a single slime mold in British Columbia that is almost one thousand square miles in size. We’re not sure about the scope of this fungus yet, but there are signs that it communicates with its own kind, planning and creating strategies that cannot easily be understood or countered. It is one cunning fungus.
Resistance is futile. Acceptance is the answer. If the fungus knocks, let it in. Its clammy embrace may ensure you a better future.
The comet Neowise that is currently swinging by the Earth has come to take me away to my rightful home. Do you remember all the people in that Heaven’s Gate California cult religion who took poison to fly away on the Hale-Bopp comet? They believed as I do that comets are important portents of change. But my belief system doesn’t involve wearing jogging pants and taking cyanide. I feel the forces that guide the comet know exactly who I am and what I’m capable of. Today I eagerly await further instruction.
They will tell me what I need to know when I need to know it, and not a moment before. As members of an advanced race, they might have a hard time imagining the full depths of our ignorance, so I won’t pester them with questions. My phone will ring when it rings. My hotmail address hasn’t changed in thirty years. I’m not hiding.
Sure, it’s been hard to know what to leave behind. I sold the big-ticket items, the car, the piano, the big-screen TV. The rest I gave away. Now my little house seems huge and empty. Why did I feel I needed so many things in my life? Will I need money where I’m going? Hard to tell. It’s in my bank account, but I made sure my neighbor Lois has an ATM card and knows the secret code to access my money. If all goes as planned, she’ll be pleasantly surprised by her windfall. If not, then I won’t be homeless.
I trust the comet. More than any other human being or institution, I trust that the comet has plans for me that I cannot even imagine. I feel about the comet the way Christians feel about Jesus. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard…” In fact, Jesus may be on the comet even as I write this, gliding through space at warp speed, trailing comet dust and eagerly awaiting our rendezvous. Is he at the helm, or does a guardian angel acting as pilot? I guess I’ll find out soon enough.
There’s absolutely nothing to be afraid of here. This place is as safe as anywhere on the planet. You will be allowed maximum freedom, but you won’t be coddled. No one will take care of you, or make your path an easy one. To do so would be to insult you, depriving you of your dignity.
Here, you are free to change your mind, make mistakes, accomplish absolutely nothing for days at a time. You are free to reap just what you sow. If you are easily bored, you will be even more bored than usual. If you can entertain yourself, your time here will be well spent. A few small challenges will keep you busily occupied. Solving problems builds character.
There are others here who will be like you. If you are especially active, or popular, they will see you as a threat. They will strive to cut you down to size. Others will try to inspire pity in you, to entangle you in their chronic problems. If you are wise, you will avoid them. Do not give advice. Do not take anyone under your wing. You have no wings.
You’re simply an inmate like everyone else here. Accept that fact and your life will be easy. Fight to achieve distinction and your life will become a living hell.
I’m waiting for the phone call that will change my life. The one that comes from an entirely unexpected person, the one that will finally make most of my problems disappear. That one.
OK, it could be an email message, or arrive on Facebook messenger. It will be surprising and it will change everything. All the issues I’ve been mulling over, worrying and fretting about will suddenly be moot.
Can’t pretend to know when this will happen. I’ve already been waiting for years, so it might be a bit longer. Every morning I arise and think “maybe today is the day they’ll call!”
Will the caller be a man or a woman? Young or old? Hip or square? Will I recognize it as important and life-changing when it happens, or will I find it just another irritating invasion of my privacy?
THE PHONE JUST RANG! But I missed answering it before the ringing stopped. They left no message. Maybe they’ll call back. Or maybe it was a mistake. Living in a foreign country, it’s a common occurrence. I answer the phone in English and I hear someone mutter something in another language and then hang up.
There’s a strange scent in the air, it smells like burning wires. People riding bicycles pass by the front of our house. Often they are whistling as they ride, and the tune they whistle sounds menacing, at least to my ears.
At night I see red laser beams scan the neighborhood. Are these coming from assassin rifles? Sometimes I hear the squawk of a walkie-talkie coming from the bushes. Are these real, or simply a neighbor’s television show. My hearing is not so good anymore.
When the good news arrives I will finally be able to relax. The world will no longer seem as sinister. It’s just a matter of time. Just around the next corner.
You just need a little guidance. Your youth and inexperience are holding you back. I can help. Within a few hours this world of ours will begin to disintegrate. You have a choice. You can stay here and turn into a vampire, a werewolf, or a zombie or some kind of weirdo that nobody wants to have around, or you can simply go with the flow. You can fall into that lake of molten fire. The one over there. It’s actually liquid sulfur. That’s why it smells so bad.
Don’t let the smell upset you. You won’t be alive long enough to smell much because sulfur melts at two hundred forty degrees. Your blood will boil, your brain will fry inside your skull and all the meat on your bones will be “well done” within minutes.
So it’s up to you. You can change or you can cease to exist. Neither will be as easy as you would like, but then nobody asked your opinion about the severity of the choice. This is the nature of the world we’ve inherited.
Images of a loving God providing guidance and refuge have long since fallen out of favor. Now, if people worship anything, they worship health and longevity. After most people died of Covid-22, the mutation that kept on mutating, nobody expected things to ever improve. Nobody even dared hope for things to return to the way they were.
The fact is that everybody has problems. Nobody has it easy. If you’re a zombie, you’ve got to find brains to eat. A vampire has to drink blood. A werewolf…well, he has more options than the other two, but they mostly involve ripping people to shreds and howling at the moon.
The main hurdle most of us face is finding someone with whom we have enough in common to build a life together. Of course, most of us can do this for a short while and then become bored and tear the life out my the roots and throw it by the side of the road. If we can refrain from doing this we’re soon ahead of the game. We can realize opportunities, we can know relative freedom and partial contentment.
Until we decide that’s not enough. It would be easier to simply acknowledge our part in this instead of blaming circumstances and others, but that doesn’t come easily to most people. We think “if only I had married that other person…” Or “look at his house, his car…why does he have it so good?” And so we build a tangled web of confusion, and find ourselves trapped inside it. Our frustration and self-pity skyrocket.