Trials of a Silly Man

(the long-awaited classic, finally on-line)

Trials of a silly man

"You ruin my pants with your fruit!"

I walked out of the house that Monday not realizing how silly my life was about to become.

But when I tripped on the sidewalk and landed on a kumquat, it struck me: things were indeed quite silly this morning.

Yes, the kumquat was my first clue. The offending matter squished between my leg and the concrete. The sound was rather silly. Sploosh. I looked all around, but saw nobody, not even some stupid kid who might have left fruit lying in just such a spot on the walk. I uttered a curse, “Rydda Nrygg!”, which in the Druid tongue means ‘I do not deserve such mischance, not on my first day of work at a new job!” (I had learned this phrase while reading a large book about ancient languages).

To explain a bit: I had just been promoted the week before, to assistant upper class file sorter at Whamco Omniplant Ltd, which is a key Northeastern US manufacturer of wheedles and gaskets for the overseas prefab drywalled drill systems market. It had taken me seventeen years in the mail room to reach this new level, and now a single kumquat was threatening to ruin me. Think of the scene if I were to walk into work with stains on my pants—an embarrassing spectacle, to be avoided at all costs!

Tossing the offending fruit in a wastebasket, I uttered another oath: I wished I were dead; I wished I had never been born. And I wished I had worn kumquat-coloured corduroy that morning, so the stain wouldn’t have shown.

Using my saliva as a solvent, I rubbed tenaciously at the soiled material. I poured cream soda on my pants, in an effort to leach out the stain. ‘Kumquat comes out with soda water,’ I remember my third-grade home economics teacher Ms. Uberkraut in her lectures to the class. I thought fondly that Ms. Uberkraut’s advice on stain-leaching was unimpeachable—thank god we had that unit on Very Silly Fruit back in Grade 3.

But leached out or not, the sheer insult of the kumquat left a wound; there was foulness in my heart as I walked toward the subway station. Clutching my train fare like a weapon, I inserted the token into the box with a violence not seen by any other passenger that week on the L-train Rapidex Underground System. ‘Ka-ching!’ Was the sound it made; the turnstile cranked and I was engaged with the Transit; I was hot under the collar.

It was there, on the platform, that I saw the culprit. Had he noticed me first he would have run, and good thing, for there was red devilry all inside me; I was all systems go to dole out some comeuppance. But there he was—it was Nathan Peddleburg, the man who stood on the corner beneath my apartment building most days, who was always selling kumquats. That bastard, the kumquat-distributing demon; I should have known it would be him!

I uttered a variety of oaths and curse words as I approached the troublemaker; yes, there were damages outstanding, and Peddleburg would do the paying. I looked him square in the face, and I grabbed his neck with my left hand; with my right hand I twisted his nose, like a restaurant waiter turning a corkscrew.

After a 45-degree turn his nose spurted a familiar red liquid. “Ack, I am bleeding” cried the wretch. When I peered closely at his face, I realized he was right. There was a lot of blood dripping out of him onto the ground—but not the horror-movie ketchup kind. This was much scarier, and was liable to complicate my life with police reports and jail time and such. Yet I continued to twist at the man's face.

For his part, Peddleburg did not approve of my tact. “Street punk! Madman! Let me be! Assaulting me upon the nose in this way is sheer silliness!”

Silliness—stinging and ominous, the word caught my attention; it bothered me, like when a big crow flies at you in a narrow hallway and pecks at your forehead. I realized I'd gone too far; I untwisted the nose and let go. Peddleburg continued to wail and gnash his teeth however. I had no kerchief to wipe up the blood, so I offered him a stick of chewing gum, as I fumbled about in my mind for an explanation, my hotness cooling into bashfulness. He continued his lamentation. “No, no, I do not desire gum at such a moment as this!” And so he declined my offer, his nose still spouting a fountain of what, when you think about it in a certain way, looks just like cranberry juice, but, in reality, it is blood.

He got a look at me and recognized who I was too. I felt extremely silly as he pronounced my name. “Ethan Pelletier,” Peddleburg implored, now pale-faced from the blood loss (for he was a haemophiliac and he would soon die), “What wrong have I ever done you? Am I not a reasonable man? Have I never babysat your little kid, even though he spits up all kinds of carrot-puke and makes the worst kind of diaper stink?”

He was right. Peddleburg was in fact a babysitter of Jebediah Pelletier, my first son by a woman no longer my wife: Fiona Detroit, now a stripper at dentistry conventions, to whom, luckily, I had managed to avoid forking over much alimony (strippers make more money than mail clerks). But I didn’t see my son Jebediah much anymore, so I started to forget what he looked like. Call me a lousy husband and an even lousier father, but how was I supposed to recognize my son’s babysitter, when I didn’t even recognize my son?

“Sat-on babies or not, you ruin my pants with your fruit,” I tried to justify myself. “And so, should I not exact revenge, whatever form it must take? For I am a man of employment, Peddleburg, and my new employ depends utmost upon cleanliness.”

Peddleburg was losing coherence; he made no reply, which satisfied me--it meant I was winning the debate. But his wound was not clotting; blood from the man was dripping onto my loafers. Shoes soiled, I panicked. I thrust Peddleburg down onto the platform, and though I risked the disapprobation of the consterned onlookers, I hurried toward the street exit; thus leaving the fruity shyster in his death throes. It was better that I walk to work, I reasoned-—less chance of murdering some other fruit-hawking haemophiliac.

It was 9 am, and I was late for work. I had vengeance on the man who ruined my pants with his delinquent produce—he had trifled with me, and it cost him his life.

But tardy as I was, I was jeopardizing my new position at the corporation.

And, to top it off, it was beginning to rain. What could be sillier than that?

No comments: