Friday, April 16, 2010

Pentaccosted

To tide you over until such time as Ideas Man has more free time, I present you with the short short story I entered into NPR's short short story contest.



Pentaccosted

            Was it just a coincidence that this happened on May 31, 2009?  In fiction there are no coincidences except those the author explicitly identifies as coincidences and those the author simply fails to notice.  By asking whether it was a coincidence, I have done neither.
            Was it just a coincidence that this woman was planted in front of me in line at Starbucks on May 31, 2009?  The statistical laws that describe the phenomena of collective behavior virtually assured I’d be behind somebody in line at Starbucks.  And simple probability made it as likely as not it’d be a woman.
            But I want to understand what it was that made her this woman.
            In fiction, we sometimes imply that certain physical characteristics give us insight into someone’s soul, but I’d just as soon not dwell on that assumption.
            Alright, I’ll give you one insignificant detail.
            She was quite tall.
            Then she turned around, and I was immediately confronted with two far more significant physical features:
1)      She had the black, blank eyes of a dove.
2)      She was gorgeous enough that my spirits sank when I saw a Holy Book in her hands.
“Have you the Spirit of the Lord?”
“Excuse me?
“Have you the Spirit of the Lord?”
            At the precise moment she stopped speaking (in fiction, moments can be quite precise), her eyes underwent a transformation.  They changed from the black, blank button eyes of a dove to something else entirely.
            Well, they remained the eyes of a dove, but they evanesced and raced through every color I know and seven whose names I’d never heard.
            They also went from opaque to translucent.  You could see her soul glowing beneath.
            It is often said that eyes are windows to the soul.  And though they may be fictitious, they were certainly windows to something.
            It was also at that precise moment that I became quite erect, or what the righteous would call upright.
            The law of ecpyrosis is one of the rules that governs causation in fiction.  It was discovered by Heraclitus and then adopted by the early Christian fathers.  It states that in fiction, one soul can directly affect another soul:  a fire goes out from one and sparks a kindred kindle in the other.
            In the span of the several moments of her eyes’ evanescence, I could see her soul smoldering.  Her soul sparked and a spark went our from her eyes and entered my eyes and set my soul smoldering.  Sparks went out from my soul and her soul through our eyes.  From our eyes they passed through the eyes of the assembled congregation.  And when all those souls were a’smoldering, they all burst into full conflagration.
            At that precise moment, all but what was true ceased to exist.
            Starbucks ceased entirely to exist.
            We transubstantiated.  We all became doves.  Our souls ceased to exist.  The forms of our bodies were transfigured, and took on the forms of doves.
            We flew.  We took flight into the free air.  We beat our wings and pushed ourselves up into the open skies, right up to its dome.
            Some indulge in the fiction of calling the dome of the skies heaven.
            And though this is all just a trick, I hope you won’t hold it against her that her soul was just a fiction.  And I hope you won’t hold it against me that she was just a woman whose body I’d longed to hold against mine.
            Because her soul, although a fiction, is not for that reason any less real than yours or mine.



3 comments:

DOCTOR J said...

So, let me say first that I like all the meta-stuff here. Fiction that tries to capture the moment of the creation of a fiction, and to account for it qua "fiction." The accounting in this piece is very Socratic (er, Platonic?) too... what with all of the references to "what is said in the talk" about fiction, what the "received wisdom" about fiction is, what "we" know about fiction. Very clever.

I think the fact that I know the author here may have interefered too much with my first couple of readings of your piece. The title "Pentaccosted" put me in a state of mind to expect something less compassionate, less in thrall with the magic (or miracle) of this encouter, less implicitly indulgent, even forgiving, of the fiction of souls. I was waiting for a negative "accosting," not the transsubstantiating, transmorgrifying, and transporting spectacle of this spontaneous congregation of doves.

Like I said about Chet's story over on his bog, I wish yours hadn't required the word "trick" at the end. I didn't believe, at the end, that the narrator believed her fiction was a "trick." But, then again, I suppose he didn't believe it either.

DOCTOR J said...

Also loved the play on the synonyms "erect"/"upright."

DOCTOR J said...

One last thing, and I also wrote this in a comment to Chet's piece: I think we three should come up with our own contests and post the products on our blogs.