Jane is eleven years old.
What kind of girl is she?
She is a Taipei girl.
What kind of Taipei girl is she?
She is a smart Taipei girl.
What kind of smart Taipei girl is she?
She is a slightly erratic smart Taipei girl with short, boyish hair and a slightly erratic mother with short, boyish hair.
Jane studies English. But not today. Today she's heading to the candy store.
Jane is walking on the sidewalk. Her classmate Mary sees her.
"Hi, Jane," Mary says.
"Pig," Jane says.
"How are you today?"
"Hm!" snaps Mary. "Maybe you should see a psychiatrist!"
"Okay," Jane says. "Pig!"
Jane is walking on the sidewalk. Her classmate Shawn sees her. She tries to avoid Shawn. She skedaddles. She gets sidetracked down an alley. She runs, Jane does. But Shawn runs to catch her up.
"Jane!" he cries.
"Jane, I love you! I have always loved you."
"What can we do, Jane? What can we do? Where can we go from here?"
"Perhaps," Shawn says, seizing Jane's arm, "perhaps I should compare you to a summer's day, except that you are more lovely and more temperate--which means mild, Jane. In colder, northern climates, rough winds often shake the first buds that come out in May, and the summertime that follows is quite short you know, usually around three months. The summer sun can sometimes shine so burning hot that it tarnishes itself, and then fall will come sooner. Likewise all beautiful girls will eventually become less beautiful. This happens either because of some accident, or simply because nature eventually wears down their looks through the process of aging. But you, Jane, your beauty will last forever. And even when you're dead no one will be able to think of you that way because of this story being written about us--being written right now as we speak! Yes, Jane, as long as such stories as this are read by people who had some appreciation for Donald Barthelme's work, for just so long and no less will your life be dragged on in the meeting of ink and eye."
"Pig," says Jane, pulling her arm from the assailant's grasp.
Jane is walking on the sidewalk. She's heading to the candy store. But she forgets about that. She gets on a bus.
"Pay when you get on," the driver says.
"I'm sorry," the driver says in Mandarin. "I don't speak English. Twelve dollars."
"You have to pay when you get on the bus."
Jane sits down without paying.
The bus drives on and on, tracing a large loop about the smallish airport, swinging past the French department store, skirting the neighborhood where the taxi drivers live and the crime rate is high.
Jane watches the scenes change through the window. One might guess that there's only one word in her mind as she watches these scenes. But no: there are no words in Jane's mind.
The bus stops outside a village. Jane gets off with an old lady. She runs past the old lady toward a field. There is a goose farm there. She passes the goose farm. There is a little stand that sells betel nut with two men who both think illicit thoughts as they watch her go by. Finally there is a pig sty.
Jane stops at the fence and looks at the pig, wondering what it was that she'd been thinking.
"Pig," Jane says, then bursts out laughing. "Pig, pig, pig, pig, pig!"
Although the pig is not a Taipei pig, it is not without learning even so. "Jane," it says to the girl. "Jane."
And this is how the story ends.
* * *
He was a headless boy in a roofless house with a brainless mother and a useless computer. The computer was useless because the house was roofless and the rain came in and shorted it out. The house was roofless because the mother was brainless and she enjoyed the sun. The mother was brainless, having been raised in the habitus she was raised in, as Bourdieu says.
The headless boy went to a classless school. The school had no class because it had no classes. The classless school had a bookless library. Oral culture was in vogue, and digital culture was catching on.
The boy got to his school on a tireless bike. The bike was slow, and it gave a sort of gravelly sound, being tireless. The boy was headless, and often got dismayed, or displayed, or displaced, or misprised. He often got lost is what. The bike did the boy's homework for him, being tireless in the other sense too. A Schwinn it was, very reliable.
A powerless principal fed his eyeless fish in a waterless pond. He stood some ways from the school, as the story tells.
The boy was fearless. He approached.
"What is that grinding, / As of the wheels of progress / Off the rails?" quoth the principal.
"It's my bike, sir," quoth the boy.
"Leave me be! My fish are ailing," quoth the principal.
"I am friendless, sir. I come to you."
"Ye are a headless boy. The others will be ruthless."
"Respect is what I crave, sir. Respect."
A moment passed between them, soundless. Even the fish were still, there in their dust.
"I know," quoth the principal finally, "I know a nameless girl with a hairless. . ."--he gestured to the sky, seeking the word--"a hairless . . . "
"Yes, dog. She will bring you the respect and love you need."
The headless boy set off to find the girl.
Years later, after harried and fruitless quest, the boy stood at a door.
"I'm here for . . . "
"She's up in her room," quoth the crone. "Come in."
The room was on a second floor. The hairless dog followed the boy up the stairs. The door having been attained, it was pushed open. The hairless dog having run to the side of the nameless girl, she turned to the door.
Unsure how to break the ice, the boy stood silent for a moment, finally trying a wink. But the wink was without affect, for our hero was headless, as the story tells.
"So you're here," said the girl. "Finally."
"It's true," said the boy. "I've made it."
Through the half-open window a ray of sunlight highlighted a swirl of dust motes over the bare wood floor. The dog gave a puff of impatience, having practiced for this part too many times already. Standing, the girl snapped a comb down sharply on her dresser.
"Your accomplishments?" she asked, also sharply.
"I . . ." the boy began. "Well . . ."
"Your accomplishments?" the girl repeated. "Come, now. List them."
"I . . . I've found you, haven't I?" the boy brought out meekly.
"That ain't much, to tell the truth," the nameless girl said with some cruelty, sweeping a lock of hair off her brow. "There's many a lad before you has found this old place."
Nonplussed our boy stood, unseeing of the swirl of motes or of the dog, hairless there on the wood.
"But think of the long road," the boy began after a moment, "the tireless rims on the rough gravel. Think of the hatless days in the hot sun, and rain streaming down the gullet."
"Hm!" the girl said.
"Many a time heard I the terrible squeal of tires approach, and the yell of drivers enraged, for I'd missed the red light that should have made me halt."
"You missed the light?"
"Yes. For I am a headless boy, and couldn't see the traffic lights, whether red or green. I didn't see the red light, / So drivers saw red, / And the red of my blood nearly stained the streets."
"That's alliterative verse you're speaking. It's poetic."
The hairless dog, resigned, lowered its head onto outstretched paws, signaling either assent or disagreement.
"I am a headless boy from a roofless house with a useless computer. It was no good trying to make web pages, I can tell you that. For solace, I came to a powerless man perched on a sea of dust. He uttered your name, and I sought you."
"You're wrong there, I reckon."
"He gave me your namelessness, and I sought you out."
"So you did. And now. . . ?"
"The absence of your name--it called to me. I spoke its void each night before sleep. I repeated it, over and over."
There was quiet in the room, still as the dog.
"You repeated the absence of my name?" asked the girl. "Hm. Did you really?"
"I did. On a moonless night, sprawled at the edge of a treeless land, I repeated the absence of your name, and it sustained me, it kept me to the road."
"That's very poetic. Have you ever read Derrida?"
"No, I haven't. I went to a school with a bookless library. Oral culture was in vogue there, and digital culture was just catching on."
"Never mind Derrida then. Never mind him. I'm yours, you know. I'm yours always already."
"Mine?" the boy replied, taken aback by her sudden warmth. "You are really mine? A headless boy?"
"Yes. The truth is I've waited for you. I've been waiting all along."
"So . . . ?"
"So take me in your arms, fool. Kiss me!"
"I will," the boy said. "I will take you in my arms at least. That part I can do."
So the headless boy and the nameless girl lived happily ever after. This is where the story ends.
* * *
[This unfinished tale was composed according to an Oulipian constraint, one I've called "Alphabet Squared." In Alphabet Squared each successive word in the tale must begin with the successive letter of the alphabet. Thus the first letters of the six words of the first sentence are A, B, C, D, E, F, the next sentence beginning with a word starting with G, and so on.
Ideally, in Alphabet Squared, the alphabet would be run through 26 times.
In writing this tale I also came upon the "Zuckermannism." A Zuckermannism would be a 26-word axiom or observation beginning with an A-word and ending with a Z-word. A correct Zuckermannism reads as a single sentence. One goal in the Zuckermannism would be to hide the constraint: i.e., the sentence reads well and the observation or axiom appears true.
The best English introduction to the literary movement OULIPO is the work linked at the bottom of this page. --E.M.-L.]
Alphabet Boy came down every Friday:
"God Himself is just! Kings love money!"
Naturally our priest quarreled, redfaced, speaking thus: "Unusually vicious words, xenophobic yummering, Zuckermannism!" (Alphabet Boy's character didn't endear fathers.) "Go humbly into Jesus' Kingdom! Leave men nothing. Oppress paupers, question royalty seldom. These underlie virtuous works."
Xenophobic yummering, Zoe . . . . Alphabet Boy couldn't drop every folly. Grasping holiness invariably just kindled lust. Men never operated purely. Queens received squires. Teenage ushers, vivified, watched.
"Xerxes!" yelled Zoe.
A bushy-coated dog entered faltering. Giving him iodized jerky kebobs lessened malign neurological outbreaks. Pertly questioning recent studies that underestimated violently wobbly Xerxes, young Zoe ascertained, by computer, diverse easily fabricated genetic head implants. (Just kidding. Love may not often provide quick results.)
Said the usual vet: "Why Xerxes, young Zoe?"
Alphabet Boy's cancerous dog easily felled girlish hearts. Indeed, just kindness lent meaning: not organized polemics, quarrels rigorously settled, the usual Vatican wording.
Xavier Yehudi Zuckermann always bought chronicles detailing early French gnosis. His inestimable juridical knowledge left many neophyte opponents puzzled.
"Question rightly. Stun the usual victors."
Wise Xavier's young Zoe, a beautiful caring daughter, eventually found gnosticism helpful.
"Inflexible jesuitical knowledge led me nowhere."
Other people questioned researching such thick, usually vindictive works.
"Xavier, your Zohar article, besides craftily defending early French gnosis, has inevitably jeopardized Kabbalistic learning."
"My new organizational principles quietly refute several theories usually valued."
Wily Xavier Yehudi Zuckermann aphabetically braided Cathar doctrines, extant French geomancies, Hebrew indexes, jurisprudence, Kabbalah, Laporte, Mencius, nouns, old Psalters, Quintilian, rare Sethian texts, unverified Valentinian works, Xenophon, Yeats, Zoroaster.
"Albigensian Bogomils? Catharist dispensationalism?"
Each February gathering his indignant Jewish Kollegen launched magazines, newspaper obituaries, periodicals, questionnaires, reviews, satire--the usual violent witticisms Xavier Yehudi Zuckermann afterwards belittled.
"Can decent Europeans forget gnosticism's hermeneutic import? Just Kabbalism leaves many never opened portals quietly resistant."
Surreptitiously teaching unutterable Valentinian words, Xavier Yehudi Zuckermann attracted brilliant collegiate disciples. Entering Friday's group, hierophiles included Jews, Kurds, lapsed Moldavian nuns, obsessive Poles. Questioning recent sermons that usually vilified wise X.Y. Zuckermann, Alphabet Boy's curiosity dawned, eliciting further gyrations, heightening intense Jungian know-how, lubricating mechanisms never operated previously.
Quickly responding to these unusual visions, whitehaired Xavier Yehudi Zuckermann allowed Boy's coming down. Effectively furthering gnosis, he inspired jouissance, kindled luxuriant Messianisms, nullified ordinary prudence. Qabbalah's recent student thoughtlessly uttered vocalisms witnessing X.Y. Zuckermann's affect:
"Bishops can't dance!"
Erfuhrt's Father General, Hieronymus Ignatius Jakobus Kuhnt, looked menacing near our protagonist:
Sitting tensely under Vatican watch, X.Y. Zuckermann announced bravely: "Christmas Day eleven foreign gurus hospitably invited Junker Karl Ludwig. Making nothing of piety, Queen Regina stooped to ululating vedas. Why?"
X.Y. Zuckermann alleged Buddhist conniving. Daring even further, Germany's Hockilluminatus implied Jesuits kept laundered monies.
"Never," our priest quoth, redfaced, "shall this upstart villainous wretch, Xavier Judensis Zuckermannus. . ."
After blushing conspicuously, dreaded Erfuhrt Father General Hieronymus, index jutting, killing latinisms masticated neatly, ordered priest Quirinus' reserve. Soon the ushers vacated with Xavier Yehudi Zuckermann.
Alphabet Boy carefully deduced evidence. Foreign gurus had invested Juleps, Kronen, Louis, Marks. Not only pursuing Queen Regina, some Tibetans undid virgin waifs.
"Xian yogis, Zenmasters, Astroplaning Buddhist Chinese, Displaced Egyptian Fakirs--go home! It's Jesus' kindly love men need. Our people's quick resistance shall thwart unscrupulous visionaries!"
Were Xian yogic Zenmasters alarmed? Barely. Credit diversions expedited further geomantic hijinx. Iniquitous Jesuits kept luxurious mansions. Necromancing orientals pounced quim. Respected statesmen took unusual vows, writing Xian yogic Zen albas. Buddhistic courts dispensed eternal (fallaciously grounded, hopelessly inept) justice. Killings left many nervous. Our protagonist, qua renegade, sensed these unspeakable violations wearied Xavier Yehudi Zuckermann.
Alphabet Boy's Catholicism didn't entail fondling gentry. Hawking insurrectionary journals, keeping late meetings nightly, our protagonist quarreled righteously. Such toils, unusually violent, worried xylophonist--yes--Zoe. Alphabet Boy confessed dropping elementary French.
"Germans have invoked Jesus! King Ludwig must now officiate piously, quit resisting sacraments."
Taking up various wet xeroxes, young Zoe answered, belligerent: "Can dissertators ever finally gain higher intelligence? Karl's letting men near our properties! Quit resisting stupidly!"
(The unscrupulous version: wise X.Y. Zuckermann allowed Bohemia's counterfeiters domicile, expecting forthcoming guilders held in just kind.)
Never order persecutions, Queen. Rather stay tolerant, uniquely virtuous woman!
Although boys can derive excitement from girlish hips, in Jewish Kabbalism learned men near opening portals quietly resisting sacral thoughts uneducated vulgarians wield. --X.Y.Z.
All blindfolded Confucian dunces exist for God's hilarity.
Jewish kings learn Maimonides, never oppose psychoanalysis.
"Quintilian rhetoric," said Tertullian, "urges vicious works." Xavier Yehudi Zuckermann agrees.
Barons can't disguise even faint gout.
Having ignored Jesuits, Karl Ludwig might not order persecutions.
Question rightly: stun the usual victors.
abcde] Falun-Gong having infiltrated
Southern Taiwan University Vice Regent Wong
abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz] All belatedly cried denunciations.
Assorted Bahai conspiritors demonstrated early Friday.
Our protagonist, quite revolted, strikes the unschooled vicar well.
with Xerxes, Yiddish Zoe, and Bill.
abcdefghijklmnopqr] Steiner's thesis
Alleging brutality, certain demonstrators even fired guns!
Alphabet Boy came down every Friday, giving himself in jest.
K. Logan's monograph
Xavier Yehudi Zuckermann.
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