An A-Muse-ing Tale  

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4/23/2006 1:20 am

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4/23/2006 1:20 am

An A-Muse-ing Tale


I seek to find the words to convey my feelings for you and I feel like a bookkeeper carefully putting amounts into appropriate columns. It is, to say the least, an inadequate feeling. I ponder, I pander, and I plagiarize! Still the prose I need to purpose my words are wanting and I am back at ‘ponder’.

“You really are stuck, my dear sir!” Says a woman standing directly behind me.

Startled - I turn around and instantly recognize the woman as a bookkeeper. “Who are you? How did you get here? … WHY are you here?” I ask. “Is your check book balanced?” she responds. I confess it is not ‒ I blame it on ATM withdrawals and the need to wear many hats in modern society. “That might be it.” she adds (she is always adding).

“Good heavens, no!” Exclaims a large man with a bag of pretzels walking in through the door. Now I am truly unnerved and I know that the ATM withdrawal argument will never hold up. “We are here at the behest of the Muse”, says the man who cleaves to his bag of pretzels as if they were state secrets. I recognize the man from a carnival or state fair ‒ he was eating the same bag of pretzels then. This is indeed strange.

“The Muse! ‒ I should have known”, says the bookkeeper who is now sipping a Styrofoam cup of Starbuck’s coffee. I look at her slightly stunned and she becomes defensive and reminds me that she is here on her break.

“What is going on here?” I demand!

“Mr. Simon…I figured it would be you sooner or later.” I turn and find Mrs. O’Brien, my 4th grade teacher. We exchange pleasantries in an out-of-body sort of way. I ask if she knows why she is here and she tells me that the Muse will reveal all when she arrives. I press and ask for the specifics of her involvement and she says it has something to do with her ‘heroic’ efforts to teach me grammar in grade school. This makes little sense but I am enjoying only a tiny thread of certainty at this moment and I accept her proposal (as it has a grain of truth to it!).

The large man asks me if, when I last saw him, he had a full or empty bag of pretzels and I reply that I remembered the bag being fairly full. He smiles as his bag instantly refills with warm pretzels. I am amazed yet again and he just smiles at me. “Who posses this power?” I plead. “Oh, you do…” says the man, “The Muse will explain all.”

I sit with a pensive sense of expectation for I pre-intellectualize that the Muse will soon arrive. The large man chomps on his pretzels; the bookkeeper checks her nails and sips her coffee; Mrs. O’Brien asks if I can stay late and clean the erasers ‒ I respond in the affirmative.

“Mr. Simon, et-all, please forgive my lateness” says a matter of fact woman dressed in costume attire and smelling of much perfume. I am surprised that I am no longer surprised ‒ acclimation to insanity takes less time then one might think.

“Mr. Simon”, says the Muse, “You have become boooooringgggg ‒ have you not? BOORIINGGGGG ‒ and I will tolerate it no longer!” Her stentorian style catches me off-guard. I always thought the Muse would be far more subtle ‒ kind of like Tinker-bell but with more stage presence.

“Mr. Simon”, she continues, “we ‒ I ‒ have decided to send you some inspiration to pull you out of this interminable funk you seem to ascribe to. You have been contacted by a rather alluring but mysterious woman ‒ have you NOT?” I nod my agreement ‒ the whole ATM thing is out the window now. She continues, “Yes ‒ I thought you might notice. Even your dimming demeanor couldn’t miss that opportunity. Now listen and listen good ‒ you are now INSPIRED! Got that mister ‒ I N S P I R E D!”

“I can spell”, I reply somewhat defensively. Mrs. O’Brien lets out a loud howl and I am put in my place. (Never having made it past the 3rd round of a single spelling bee.)

“We ‒ I ‒ have decided to inspire you with this woman’s presence.” says the Muse. “She IS your inspiration ‒ got it Mr. Simple-trite-sentence-man?” Shocked, I ask if this is to be true companionship ‒ passionate sex - even love?

“What am I, some kind of Oracle? The Delphi! HA!” (Muse’s can be temperamental.) She continues, “This business of love, sex and infatuation is for mere mortals to figure out ‒ it as often makes you stupid as brilliant ‒ jealous and petty to your giving and caring. What would I want from passion other then a good story? “

What do any of us want from passion beyond a good story? A first person story to be sure. But I am under the influence of the Muse and I hold firm for meditation on passion and its meaning at a later time. The Muse is prepared to speak…

“Now go, Mr. Simon, and be inspired by this woman. Love, passion, sex - it is all your business. I’m in the inspiration line and I long ago learned to be grateful for a good ending ‒ whether it is tragic, comic, feel good buddy-cop … Oh, whatever! I give you inspiration ‒ you may NOW write and speak and experiment with tonality, illusion, humor … any of a host of techniques up to and including poetic liberty ‒ BUT ‒ you are not to be boooringgg.” With this she looks me right in the eye to let me know she is serious.

Seeking to change the subject I ask about the presence of the others in the room. “I never work without an audience.” says the Muse. “If this were Broadway, I’d pack the place but rural Wisconsin? Let’s just say I had to pull in a few favors … or give away free pretzels.” She espies the large man who makes no gesture of embarrassment ‒ he is past it.

The man asks if his bag was full of pretzels once again and this time I don’t respond. I feel a terrible sense of bad karma or kismet and I give into the creeping sensations and his bag is once again full of warm pretzels. “That wasn’t very nice!” I say to the large man but he seems to not notice. “Come now, Robert!” interjects the Muse, “we all have our talents. Don’t fault him for using his. Would you like to bet a big thick novel that you will not take advantage of your gift in your relationship with this woman?” I feel deep down inside that I will be truthful and honest with you ‒ but I think of spending several years of my life working on a ‘War and Peace’ size novel to pay off the wager if I fail; I show the Muse humility. Don’t bluff the Muse is the moral of that story. Inspiration comes easy in her presence but don’t get cocky.

Mr. O’Brien brings me a boat-load of erasers and tells me to have them ready by first bell tomorrow. I agree and all depart, the large man still chewing away. The bookkeeper asks me if I have a trash can for the coffee cup. Lost in thought I tell her to just leave it on the kitchen table. Everything is a blur at this point. I take the erasers outside and pound them against a brick wall and squint as the chalk billows with each and every whack. I meditate on this affair; the wind prattles in gusts and the chalk puffs in methodic burst like some chain-smoking gossip. Gossips always have a good story ‒ always ‒ they just never get the ending right. A good ending, a good climax ‒ that’s the trick.

So you see, when you responded to my tenders, you’re fate was unwittingly cast: we are thrown together in the interest of inspiration. Smitten? Ha ‒ if smitten where pretzels the large man would set up residence. It is beyond that. We look around and wonder how we can be so full of desire, and passion, and wonder in our lives and yet live for such off-off-off-Broadway curtain calls. We wish and we wish and one day the Muse comes and the kettle on the stove starts to whistle. We are not muse nor gods nor even whimsy ‒ we are mortal and we walk our paths with care.

We are in the soup now! Face to face? Cheek to cheek? Eye to eye? (These being the least of our plans.) Now the Muse desires that we dance and live our lives as story. We are mortals, you and I and we dance with such blush as to make the angles vie for front row seats to hearts descried.

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