Thursday, January 22, 2009

Conrad, Mulch, James, Jip, Loop, and Carlyle

Conrad Lung built shelves. His friend, James (surname unknown), wrote poetry. One of his poems, “Ode to a Builder,” sounded to Conrad as if it had been written for him, but in fact had not been. James never wrote his poetry for anyone, just as he never wrote his poems about anything. Reading through this ode, one cannot possibly hope to discern what it is Conrad thought he had discerned in the thing to suggest that it had been written for him. If the ode can be said to have any subjects at all, they are (in no particular order): a celery stalk, three unopened cans of hotdog chili, one sock (of unknown color and material), a small herd of widows, and a faint murmur. Conrad, or any builder, for that matter, most certainly does not enter into this poem.

James, like most people, has more than one friend. For instance, he is a friend of Carlyle Hip, a woman of no great mind or body but who, it must be admitted, is tolerable enough company. She owns a small factory that she has never visited, and she will only eat food that she can swallow without chewing. She doesn’t recall how she met James, but both recall having felt an immediate something for the other. The something they both felt, like the meeting, cannot be recalled either.

Conrad has never met Carlyle, but James is sure they would get along. Or, rather, James would be sure of this were he to ever think of the two of them meeting, which he hasn’t. So to say James is sure of such a thing is somewhat misleading. Let us instead say this: I am sure that James is sure they would get along were James to ever think of the two of them meeting.

Carlyle has a servant named Jip. Jip had a daughter named Loop. Loop once saw Conrad building something, and she immediately fell in love with him. Two days later she was struck with a severe fever, and six days later she was dead. Neither Carlyle nor Jip could make the funeral, and Conrad had no idea who Loop was, so it was an unattended event.

One of James’s poems is called “On a Dull Lip.” Of all his poems, this poem comes closest to having been written for someone. When James was writing it, he was thinking of an old schoolmate of his named Donald Dull. Donald Dull had grown a moustache at a remarkably young age, and this had always distinguished him in James’s mind. This poem then, though not dealing directly with Donald Dull, was in some small way indebted to him.

Conrad Lung preferred eating lunch alone. One day James phoned Conrad just before he was about to sit down to his lunch and invited him over for a sandwich. Conrad hated sandwiches, so made a sort of spitting sound into the phone. James hung up, disgusted, and did not take any lunch at all that day. Conrad was able to put his down in perfect solitude.

It is only natural for a mother to dislike her daughter’s murderer, thus Jip very much resented Conrad. She went to Carlyle one morning and asked, “Who is Conrad?”

“Never heard of him.”

“But I’ve often heard James speak of him.”

“I doubt that”

And that was the end of their exchange.

The man who lives across the street from Conrad’s shop is named Herman Mulch. He has watched Conrad at work many times, though this has never induced either love or fever. Mulch is a dull man, not the sort one includes in stories. But in order to create some sort of contrast, I suppose, it is acceptable to grant him entry here.

It is supposed that, in the future, Conrad and James will have a bitter falling out, Carlyle will fire Jip, and Mulch will perish, like Loop, in virtual anonymity. Though none of that, of course, is at all certain.

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