The factory’s closed, he said.
Closed? As in Closed Down?
No, the security guy chuckled. Closed for repairs, renovations.
I had been going there for years, churning out my poetry, those little dispatches from the frontiers of perception. Lately however the software had stopped working, the hardware was getting cranky too.
Someone had noticed.
When will it be re-opened? I asked.
Soon, he said. We’ve got people working on it. You work here or something?
You could say that. Guess I need a break too just as much as the machines. Thanks anyway.
He watched me go as I trudged down the street. I gave him a little wave just before I turned the corner.
You know what happiness is? he said.
Contentment? I suggested.
Not even close, he said through the burnished orange of this late autumn afternoon.
Come on, he said. You know better that that.
Then what? I asked.
It’s not true what they say about cats, you know. That old proverb about curiosity killed the cat. It’s to stop you changing lanes.
You’re beginning to sound like a zen poet, I said. Like Li Po.
Become like a cat, he said. Go out into the world, cat-curious. You can never NOT be happy if you’re finding out things.
do you agree?
where is happiness found for you?
what is the chief impediment for happiness, do you think?
We were seated at the feet of the Great Writer who at 37 already had three novels published, the latest of which had just won the Booker Prize as it was then known.
“I will tell you a secret,” he said. “one which is not really a secret. It has been known for millennia but it has been largely overlooked and forgotten. Aristotle first taught it in his ‘Poetics.’. It is the principle of Endings. “
We leant forward. I had my notebook ready. “The ending,” he said, “is written in the beginning. There should be only one way a story can end. The challenge for any writer is to surprise the audience with the inevitability of everything that happens. There is no such thing as alternative endings. I repeat, there is only one way a story can end.”
do you agree with that? Is there only one way to end a story?
can you think of a story — fairy tale, parable, short story, film — that could have ended in a way different to how it did?
have you read Salman Rushdie’s Booker prize winning novel, ‘Midnight’s Children’?
I came across a woman who kept tripping over her shadow.
If only it didn’t stand so close, she said, tripping over the shadow’s right foot.
She lifted herself from the ground and before she could hit full stride, the shadow tripped over her.
Fuck! It yelled. She keeps getting in the way.
It lay on the ground, grunting. I think I’ve twisted my ankle.
Here, let me help, I offered. The shadow was tall and spindly and so was relatively easy to pick up.
The sun went behind a cloud and briefly the two became one.
Then it came out again, and the pair went on their slapstick way, tripping and falling.
How they made it home was anyone’s guess.
I used to go down to the pond at the end of our street to write poems about dragonflies the way Monet would go down to his garden at Giverny to paint water lilies.
The only difference was that dragonflies didn’t stay still like waterlilies did. They dashed and darted about the pond at 100 ks an hour. Even when they had sex they had it on the wing coupling like planes fueling mid- flight. You had to admire them though they were devilish to tie down.
I almost got one once when a dragonfly dawdled on the front doorknob one drowsy afternoon, after summer rains, then saw me and took off, its gossamer wings flashing rainbows.
I have just written a poem.
I read it to my granddaughter.
“Hey! Great last line,” she says.
“But what about the rest of the poem?” I say.
“Great last line”
I go back to the poem.
Read it a few times.
It is a great last line.
So what I do is this: I jettison the rest of the poem and keep
the last line,
I read it a few times.
I read it to her.
I read it again.
It seems to lack something,” she says.
So I put the poem back together like it was and read it to her.
“Great last line,” she says.
You got to feel sorry for single white rolls.
Even in packs they can’t make a go of it.
Maybe they should take a good hard look
consult relationship experts like couples
on Married …
or search for roll-mates on Tinder.
There must be someone out there.
If ‘Baked Fresh’ doesn’t confer any advantages
I don’t know what does.
Even when consumed they die alone.
It must be a lonely existence.
So where are you?
In a galaxy far far away.
No. Where are you really?
Isn’t that where …?
Yes, where Billy Pilgrim went.
That time traveller from ‘Slaughterhouse Five’?
Yes, he went there on his days off.
His days off? From where?
Reality. Reality bites, you know.
But what if you never came back?
Like Hugh Conway in ‘Lost Horizons’? Dorothy in Oz ?
Would it really matter? You’d be where you want to be. Would you even want to go back?
Have you a favourite fantasy place ? Which fantasy world would you live in if you could? What if you couldn’t come back?