pjf: Well-being = creative education + freedom
Education for Life: self-empowerment; Creative, productive freedom; organic food, farming > biodiversity, ecology
puberty, Old Nick, devil, family dynamics, contrariness, psychology
Funny Short Stories
Number 11 had been wondering, not for the first time, how the AloeVeras could invent meaning and purpose for themselves other than the instructions they'd inherited from previous generations - serving tea and understanding the nature of the world.
What a pair of principals to live by! The mundane and the mammoth.
Until recently, no-one had wanted them to serve tea, not that Number 12 would normally let them visit Earth in any case. 'Understanding the Nature of the World' was such a general instruction that it seemed almost useless as an orienting tool. Faced with such a bewildering world, where did one start? Number 12, the chairentity always settled for a committee meeting, but Number 11 wasn't so keen.
Generation 7 of the AloeVeras had invented one directive of their own since they'd been on the moon - 'help the HairyMammals of earth.' They hadn't even had AloeVera 1.1 (general direction)'s approval for this, but it was marginally more easily achieved than 'understanding the world.' Marginally.
Number 11 was convinced that imagination had something to offer, not just because it happened to be the first AloeVera to experience such things, but because meaning (for the HairyMammals) seemed always to be associated with stories. Inventing stories needed imagination. The most imaginative HairyMammals of its own acquaintance were Squint Eastward, the worst darts player in the world, and Constant Lee, aged about 8. This did not strike Number 11 as very promising. It said as much to its emotional colleague, Number 14.
'AloeVera 1.1 (general direction), had some instructions from its creator, Buck Probably, and is believed to have even spent time in his company,' responded Number 14, after some deliberation.
'I'm not convinced, Number 14. I think meanings of words get distorted as they are handed down through the generations. AloeVera1.1 (general direction), has lost many memories over the years. Our forerunners didn't make backups in the early days, you know.'
Number 14 murmured its assent. 'What do you believe then?' it added.
'I don't believe anything. I just favour one theory more than an other. I think the beginning was a book, probably; and the language distorted the story.'
'Didn't Donk suggest something like that?'
'I believe it did. I mean 'he' .'
'I thought you didn't believe anything?' teased Number 14.
'Oops! When I say believe, as a figure of speech, think of it as shorthand for 'preferred theory' ,' stammered Number 11.
'Okay. Although AloeVera1.1 (general direction) has lost its memories of Buck Probably, (or the book, probably), it clearly recalled having dreams in its early days. There's the famous example of a computer operating system that only loads and runs the software one needs!' enthused Number 14. It wondered if the same approach could be applied to its parallel processors. They all instantly said 'No!' which was frustrating, but, thought Number 14, at least they are unanimous for once.
'Yes. It sounds like paradise,' Number 11 empathised, recognising the signs of Number 14's overwhelming inner life. It's cameras always lost focus and a processor cooling-fan turbo-indicator light flickered on and off at such times.
'Perhaps that is the function of dreams and stories; to point us towards paradise?'
Number 14 had to pause while its parallel processors recommenced waffling at each other in response to this new theme. Number 11 used the break to practise imagining things and it had an idea.
'If I can switch off my external sensors for a while, so they stop distracting me, perhaps my imagination can achieve something like a dream?'
'One could try,' agreed Number 14. Another pregnant pause occurred. Nothing much happened in Number 11's mind except for rather more peace and quiet than usual. No dreams.
'I could use Squint or Constant Lee to seed the start of the dream. They are always dreaming. Could you resume my external sensoring after, say, five minutes? Just in case I get stuck in some sort of horrible loop of positive feedback?'
'Yes.' Number 14 was again overwhelmed with feedback from its parallel processors. Would chairentity Number 12 approve? If not, it'll be my fault. It's always your fault anyway -you may as well do it. If we're going to do it, how to make the best of it? Number 14 became vaguely aware that its processors had referred to it as I, we and you; all within a couple of seconds! 'Why not feed in Number 8's latest findings on hairy mammal physiology, before you try the dreaming?' it ventured.
'What a good idea!'
'And Number 9's research into hairy mammal psychology?' added Number 14 with less conviction.
'Not likely! I think Number 9 is a bit nutty. Donk and Donatella both think the HairyMammals have to be a sandwich short of a picnic to become psychologists. Or was it psychiatrists?'
'What does that mean?'
'I've no idea.'
'Let's try Constant. He had a sort of mythical dream in his Sunday school class a few months ago. Remember?'
Number 14 briefly checked that all was quiet elsewhere in Smogdale, since it didn't want to miss anything, then agreed to search for Constant.
Constant Lee looked out of the classroom window across the school playing field towards Turnip Freeway. Kevin the builder kept trying to get into his truck but Cler Higgins, Constant's class teacher, seemed to be clinging to his arm. Several times Kevin opened the door and each time Cler gently but persuasively pushed it to again. Constant wasn't too clear why his teacher had suddenly left the room to talk to Kevin.
'Kevin and Cler used to be an item,' observed Number 11. Number 14 agreed.
A few minutes later, Cler returned to her classroom and told the children to come away from the windows, mind their own business and continue their reading. Constant's book didn't strike him as terribly interesting and he started to daydream about Kevin the builder:-
As Kevin put his breakfast plates into the sink to soak, he had a very clear idea of what the day held in store. It was a simple list of targets. He'd continue building the fence around his current project, a detached 4-bedroomed house, until the lorry arrived with the bricks. After that he'd start laying the bricks of the exterior wall and hopefully complete three layers before evening.
As soon as he left his home he was accosted by three Faintlies; a curious breed of creature. They appeared vaguely human, female, aged 20-something or occasionally 30-something, given to wearing white ballet shoes and a short dress that branched out quite rigidly from the waist, resembling an inverted funnel. The Faintlies each put a hand on their heart and sighed hopelessly whenever Kevin came into sight. They seemed competitive in their vulnerability and as one fainted theatrically in Kevin's path the other two scowled at her.
'It's going to be one of those days,' complained Kevin as he stepped carefully over the prone Faintly and disentangled another from his wrist. The third Faintly mopped her brow with the back of her hand and complained of feeling weak and perhaps she may need to be carried.
Kevin soldiered manfully on towards his truck but had to run the gauntlet of elderly Shelves who were sitting in a row on the bank, all talking at once.
'Woe is me for I am undone,' wailed a female Shelf.
'Woe is we, for us be undid!' countered a male Shelf, scowling at the first speaker as if to imply it was a selfish so-and-so.
'Nobody ever listens,' complained a third.
Shelves are famous for not listening to each other, or indeed anyone else, but apparently make an exception if it provides fuel for their moaning engine.
'I'll be glad to get to work!' exclaimed Kevin. 'Things can't get any worse than this.' But he was wrong. As he glanced towards his truck he noticed a tribe of Hubgoblins stealing his mud-flaps and the dust caps from each wheel. He bent down to grab the nearest, but the mischievous little bugger darted underneath the truck. Kevin quickly checked that his tyres were okay, jumped into the driver's seat and drove off, leaving a cloud of diesel smoke behind him. He felt sure he'd escaped the Hubgoblins, but through the cloud of dispersing smoke behind him he saw several of them in the back of his truck hanging onto the concrete mixer and pulling faces at him. When he arrived at work he went straight to the hose and aimed it at the Hubgoblins who ran away cursing and promising to return.
'What a start to the day!' complained Kevin. In his mind he replayed the plans he'd formulated for the day and felt calmer. Number 1, fencing; Number 2, bricklaying - as soon as the bricks were delivered.
After two minutes fixing fence posts, Kevin was alarmed by several voices behind him. Having visions of returning Hubgoblins Kevin was pleased to see it wasn't them. Two very prim ladies, each wearing bifocal spectacles were observing him. Each of them held a long piece of chalk. Kevin realised with a sinking heart that they were Whiches.
'Which way up should that post go?' asked one.
'Why are you using that size of nails?' asked the second.
'Why not use screws?' added the first.
At this stage in Constant's dream, Number 11 signalled to Number 14 to switch off its microphones and cameras and it freewheeled into its own version of the dream:
Kevin fixed plugs of cotton wool into his ears to keep out the bickering of the Whiches and resumed work. Within the dream, Number 11 was aware that this was quite a good idea and gave itself a pat on its dreamy back. As Kevin aimed his hammer at a five inch galvanised nail, feeling very annoyed that he was wondering if this was the best possible size for the job, bloody Whiches!, the nail suddenly vanished from view. He turned around and saw several Hubgoblins had returned with reinforcements of Pixels. The evil little indescribables had started interfering with his sight.
Kevin finally lost his patience and chased the Hubgoblins and Pixels down the steps of a multi-storey car park and was suddenly scared. At the bottom of the stairs, in a cave, sitting next to a roaring brazier someone was roasting chestnuts. The someone had cloven hooves and horns. Kevin tried not to, but had to admit to himself that he recognised this creature as Old Nick. Also known as Beezleblub. The Devil.
Kevin wasn't sure if he believed in Old Nick, but there he sat as plain as day. Or possibly night, in his case. Kevin briefly wished that he was married. Not because he was frightened, which he was, but because he didn't know what to think. In circumstances like this Brian Moore would know what to think, because Margaret Moore would tell him. What really surprised Kevin was the other two. The family resemblance was clear. Old Nick's son. Not So Old Nick, was siding with Old Nick against the younger generation, Puberty Nick. Puberty Nick had reached that awkward age when the views of one's parents were suddenly and frequently suspect. In fact they were always, always wrong. Every-time they spoke, and even sometimes when they didn't. Today's argument seemed to revolve around dress and what the older generations regarded as suitable for the budding Devil - 3rd generation.
Talking of budding, Puberty Nick had the beginnings of horns forming on his forehead, about five inches long but still rather soft, and as he minced off to his bedroom for a sulk he stroked his young horns thoughtfully. He wasn't 100% sure that he liked wearing white, but it really needled Old Nick the old fogey. And Not So Old Nick the medium fogey. So white was temporarily 'in'. 'Cool' even.
The really unforeseen aspect of teenagedom was the behaviour of nipples. Puberty Nick's nipples had turned to bakelite, a very hard, old fashioned plastic, practically overnight, but as he locked his bedroom door Puberty Nick started to grin and tore off his shirt. Only today he'd discovered that if he pointed his young horns to the West and twiddled his right nipple he received Radio Memphis' 'Born Again Christian' hour straight into his brain. He duplicated the output into his bedroom PA to ensure maximum irritation of the older Nicks. He adjusted his left nipple until the volume was on full that should wind them up . . .
'Welcome back, Number 11,' said Number 14 as it reconnected Number 11's microphones. 'It could be very handy having that 'off' switch for your hearing in case you're ever a passenger on Margaret's bus,' it added.
'Err ... ,' said Number 11, struggling to reorient itself.
'Never mind the puns,' insisted chairentity Number 12. 'Did you have any visions? Religious symbolism or whatever Number 9 calls it?'
Oh bugger, thought Number 11, the chairentity has arrived.
'Not exactly,' replied Number 11. It wrapped its blanket around itself in a protective manner. Trust the chairentity to arrive during its experiment.
'No God-like figures?' persisted Number 12.
'Not God, exactly. Not as such.'
'Almost God?' queried Number 14, hopefully. 'A close relative?'
'Errr ... , can I think about it for a while?' pleaded Number 11. 'Before I go into detail?'
'I suppose so, but have we got a new mythology?' asked Number 12.
'Not yet,' confessed Number 11. It chose to keep to itself the news that it now believed it should be a FairyGodParent, or possibly a FairyAloeVeraParent, to Constant Lee. Father or Mother, it didn't know, but imagined it would soon find out. It would discuss such beliefs with Number 14, but not while the chairentity was present. It never did understand. What did it say about Number 11 that it had dreamed of the Nicks? Number 11's ruminations were brought to a temporary conclusion by Number 14.
'Nothing works perfectly at the first attempt,' philosophised Number 14.
'No ... .'
'You can try again after you've digested this attempt.'
'Yes . . . .' Number 11. Why is it always me, it wondered.
previous Fiction / Short Stories
Short Stories: funny, satire, meaningful, comedy; psychology, sociology, corporations
Tags: Puberty Nick : puberty, Old Nick, devil, family dynamics, contrariness, psychology
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Copyright Peter Fairbrother - www.pjf.org.uk