The sad, bloated numbers came in from the chill, flopped down, went out again. They were hardly able to stand straight in line for inspection while holding up so much excess weight. Before toppling, they were spun, padded, poked, pilfered. It was often embarrassing. They smelled gross like the many varieties of canned beans that get counted in dank, yet smoky rooms. Canned laughter was piped in from Siberia as accompaniment. Always, there was one sort of rub or another. More cans, yet again. You know their kind, the kind no one wants to be near, yet alone touch, but can’t resist sniffing, for long. It is a known fact they are contagious. That rub sticks to skin like a device with the numerical power of a napalm derivative. It climbs from the ground up and settles in flabby crevices. Defenseless skin appears to be exceptionally vulnerable to piercings. Unless that device is more correctly a residual.
The tawny owl said, “You’d think they’d be able to cover up the smell better.”
I have asked the tawny owl on more than one important occasion why numbers have kicked such definitive ass over such a long haul. Numbers remain dominant in classrooms, vaults, dungeons, cafeterias, firing ranges, boardrooms, boiler rooms, bondage emporiums. They perform like guided missiles. What can words do? Blather blah, blah, blah? Words have been stripped down and sullied like sagging boxers with obsolete elastic that is soiled, frayed, and yellowing. Talk is so cheap. It doesn’t mean what it used to. The boxers were once popular in stripes, checks, geometrics, and diagonals. The solid colors were usually primary. Now, there are so many unsightly shit stains. The submissive asses once covered by the shorts have been penetrated too far and for too long to pull out. Is money the only answer?
The tawny owl said, “Well, yeah, like…duh.”
The tawny owl has often told me that the creation of money is the only original human invention not copied from a more evolved creature. But, even I can count that high. Look at the birds, the bees, the ants, the beavers. And that’s all on the surface. Dive deeper and open your eyes. Add it up. Then go figure.
The tawny owl said, often, “The only figure worth figuring is an endless figure-eight, the basic building block of the multiverse.”
I said, “Even I know that.”
The tawny owl said, “As if.”
I said, “Not necessarily at all times.”
I went down to the municipal Plaza that is hip and deeply dug, the quasi-cool one often mistaken for up, not down, you know the one, owned by a bank, selling tickets to the lottery for seats in the stadium owned by a bank, named after the first scion of the bank. Every town has at least one. There’s wrestling, jousting, gouging, all with popular food and drinks offered at unfair prices. It would typically be plopped butt up against another one pretty much like it on an adjoining street to the immediate rear. Unless that is a multiple of a two or a three popping up again out of who knows where. There is plenty of parallel parking, though. They pass out complementary vinyl pocket protectors while waiting. You can’t miss it.
I went because I wanted to look up at a big statue that was being unveiled. To my surprise, I noticed a vine of pale purple passion flowers beginning to creep up the statue. If it was so new how did they get there so fast and start climbing? Pretty soon, a flower might strike in the area of a groin, the standardized test for any least common denominator. The artistic theme of the statue expressed the depth of a well known but misunderstood crooked number. It could have been the number two once more, or just as likely three again. But, distinctly not a groin. And passion was nothing if not out of place. The statue had been pierced at odd angles by a number of poles holding a number of flags depicting stirring slashes of purple and yellow that flapped listlessly, although the wind was brisk. The numbers were touted to be reliable, however, if not anywhere near close. Most beautiful birds react to the flying colors of purple and yellow like an anarchist to a red and black banner. Not just beautiful birds, either. Even Bloods and Crips agree on purple and yellow. Sort of. Unless those piercing poles were arrows.
There was a bouncy mayor on hand in the Plaza, unbalanced on a bouncing stage, along with a chubby accountant, a reverend, a baker, several bikers ,and an accordion virtuoso who came wearing a skin tight costume. He played Lady of Spain and The Theme from Mary Poppins. The costume glittered. The mayor was booed for all the right reasons. A professional bowler was due but he never showed up. An older lady in waiting swooned and fell off her rocker.
The statue had been pre-assembled starting at the base, proceeding to a boxy juncture, and continuing mightily upward. It was constructed of a mixed pre-stressed concrete consistency. I mulled the meaning of the tenseness and density abutting those passion flowers, and the verticality, sort of. Unless that upper thrust was more a downer. The tawny owl was perched at the edge of the plaza in an official heritage oak tree beside his lovely wife, Thee Mrs, close enough so that I could hear her singing a classic song from The Animals that was supposedly written by a short man and his slim wife while crammed together in an office building, but has been flying around forever according to the tawny owl, “We gotta get out of this place if it’s the last thing we ever do.”
“It was long ago and far away,” he informed me, as an aside, when discussing recurring anachronisms, “that I first heard that tune back in Kiev, after the Cossacks would be unleashed to ride wild.”
The lovely Thee Mrs. soon had her fill of swill and flew off to regurgitate. She was past due anyway. The tawny owl followed soon thereafter. That left me, in a familiar element, surrounded. The mayor was soon accosted and fled from the stage. A cloud passed and then it changed course and stuck around. Then, I choked on a deep breath and it came disgustingly out of my nose. In a confused state, I made a wrong turn.
In public plazas, there are invariably egos cut loose to collide and be random. Individuals are apt to become disturbed. There is a clash and a clatter. Chains rattle. Often, tendrils are still attached to the chains and become highly visible when squeezed. Attitude thumps its beat. Pretty soon, shit tends to fly as it will. According to much simplistic lore, that is where the boogie-woogie, boogaloo, and wa-watusi started.
Before long, I was about plumb tuckered out from all of the public exposure, the breathing of stinky air, and the sounds of marching charging feet. As I prepared to push my way past all obvious obstacles, including man and boy made barricades, I recognized one of my tween twins scampering about in a great hurry. Despite the quality of the air, my poor eyesight, and the helmet he was wearing, I knew instantly which one.
I said, “Sup.”
The yang twin said, “What are you doing here?”
I replied, “Good question.”
I was listening in my head to the enunciation of James Brown on Doing It To Death. I just had to smile. What more could I add? “Have a funky good time,”the main man repeated.
I said, “I’m taking shallow breaths.”
He said, “Do you know you’re bleeding?”
“Good answer, dad.”
“It must be in the back of my head where I can’t see.”
“Yeah, it must be that.”
I said, “Where’s your sister?”
He said, “You mean that Benedict Arnold? She’s at the creamery eating an ice cream cone while the battle outside is raging.””
“Don’t you think Benedict Arnold has an important role, too? What if Benedict Arnold could have prevented a catastrophe like the the Catastrophe of 1949.”
“And saved all those beautiful birds.”
“Theoretically, I mean. And hypothetically, of course. But for real, too.”
“Go take care of your head, dad.”
“I”ll have a look in a rear view mirror.”
“I have to go.”
“Sure, there’s catching up to do.”
I said, “Do you need any money?”
He said, “Sure, why not?”