Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

December 6, 2014

Rapunzel and the Imp

Filed under: Jeffrey Marlin — louisproyect @ 3:15 pm


(This is the last in a series of guest posts from Jeffrey Marlin whose e-books, including this one, are available from Amazon.com. )

Rapunzel’s tale of woe and redemption begins many decades before her birth, with the story of her adoptive mother, that overly protective soul who locked her away in a lonely tower along with her fabled long hair. Although born to the lowest of families in an undistinguished place, Rapunzel’s unnatural mother displayed from early infancy a saintly inclination. Her kindness lit the darkness and elevated the town. But as often happens, her shimmering Goodness offended the unseen creatures who live to degrade us all. Unfortunately, such situations rarely turn out well, as the following formative episode demonstrates clearly:

Pity the miscreant entities! They could not escape her radiance no matter how they tried. They prayed to their devilish icons for reassignment. But this was not to be ‘til the end of time. Or so the demons were told. Here they were ordered to stay and make do, creating their mischief as best they could.

As we are children of Heaven, they are no more than slaves.

Yet even slaves may finally run out of patience.

So it was that one rainy night the unseen community gathered in the depths of a forest favored by the lowest of mortal creatures. Here they wailed a petition to the rulers of their kind, the ones who watch the world from its churning core. The sound of their grievance frightened spiders and foxes the size of lions. It chilled the earth and froze the eggs of owls in their nests. It made its way to the heart of town and caused a thousand nightmares.

And it must have impressed The Devil himself because here came an Ancient Deputy to offer them advice. These little creatures had been so long at work among human beings, pulling their tricks on the innocent, tugging beards and tickling wives, planting false recollections to sow confusion, they hardly remembered their origin under the surface, where all were born from a womb of boiling stone. They didn’t remember the faces of their rulers.

The great one’s appearance gave them a shock. Grossly disjointed features swam in a mass of fire. Was that lump of mysterious substance a kind of nose? That cavity a mouth? Were those oily pits of blackness supposed to be eyes? Those raggedy flaps two ears? Everything changed so fast they could not tell. The visitor swam in the air supported by leathery wings embellished by fur and blisters. Pustules covered his body. That was how the natural world portrayed him, assigning features devised of molecular structures. This was not his wish. But even the eldest and strongest of them cannot deny the rule of natural law, leastways not when they venture above the ground. And nature insists on painting them as She sees them.

The lesser demons haunting the town had long accepted their pointed heads, feet reminiscent of ducks and dragons, two or three navels, teeth like beavers, crocodile jaws, monstrous chins, protruding eyes and bellies. Some had beards on their noses and elbows and shoulders. Warts were widely distributed as were beaks. They could not cast reflections so they never saw themselves, relying on their fellows for description.

The ancient one would never achieve a durable earthly shape. He did not intend to stay for cakes and coffee. He wasn’t there to show himself off. Once his petitioners doused their fear, none of them cared a sniff what the Deputy looked like.

Without so much as an invitation, they vocalized their complaints.

The first to speak was a female imp who specialized in vanity. Her scraggly hair held the hues of a tropical parrot. Her narrow lips were red and blue. Her eyes were green and orange. She spoke with the nagging voice of a rusty gate.

“Great Father,” she called him, not knowing any better. “From the moment the child acquired wits I laid myself against her very eardrum. I rhapsodized on her beauty. ‘Come,’ I said, ‘Open your eyes and take a bite of pride. Behold the moon in the mirror. Demand extravagant favors. Spite any who refuse you.’”

This parody of the female gender continued: “What good did it do me? I ask you! Where I’m concerned she’s deaf as a stillborn lamb, and we have plenty of those. Father, I did not always sound this way. It happened from screaming incessantly in her ear.”

“In other words you failed,” said the fiery presence.

“I’m not the only one.”

The burning face said nothing more. It’s writhing features continued to twist. The Deputy twitched his crumbling wings, never moving a jot from his place in the air.

The demon that wore the face of lust spoke next from a higher branch of the selfsame tree. Suave and self-assured, it pretty much ruled the roost. Why not? Of all the disgraces encumbering human beings, which dread weakness spawns as much trouble as that which we share with goats of the field and monkeys that live in trees? When the tightened lip will not gossip, the fist refuses to clench, the urge to mayhem falls asleep, it’s lust that keeps the Devil’s agenda moving. It’s lust when all else fails.

And here was the certain master, a robust imp with swelling organs native to both persuasions, a mouth of teeth constructed of sugar, a voice like a humming cello. Not that some others didn’t attempt to manipulate sexual urges. But few of them had the knack.

Many were prone to embroidering, injecting flowery phrases no one wants to hear. Others rushed the progress, causing irritation. A few infected their victims with lack of nerve, reflecting their own confusion. Leading to what conclusion? Participants walked away from the assignation. Another sin was avoided, a lesson learned. Next time, behind the church or in the cornfield, there would be hesitation. Such failures delay humanity’s promised extinction. Demons who cook up defeats like this face the stinging disapproval of their kind.

It happens more often than you might think.

But not to our present speaker. This little expert boasted, “I hook one fish for every three lines cast. And you can be sure when I catch one, the fish stays good and caught. I love to watch them wriggle. I thrive on their dissipation.”

No exaggeration. This one imp accounted for half the misery experienced within the borders of the town for the past three hundred years, since it first got the hang of doing things just so. Proud? Perhaps. But we cannot deny the monster knew its business.

Self-pity rules the devil’s unseen creatures. The Imp of Lust put its own on full display. “Great Father,” it moaned, “I glut her brain with images of the most fantastic design. Night after night I flood her mind with adventures. The pleasures with which I assail her brain give normal girls a fever. This dreamer mistakes it for comedy, the height of all ridiculousness. She giggles in her sleep. This is a first for me.

“I also inspire the best looking boys to stare at her suggestively, with fire in their eyes. Sooner or later this kind of thing always works. But Flora confounds my efforts, taking those smoky glances for simple affection and leaving my helpless pawns to suffer the shame of swollen parts and inner abnegation. Holy men with long gray beards jump to the snap of my fingers. Most of them cannot wait. They prey on young and old. But this one drains my strength and scars my reputation. Maybe she is a juvenile witch gone bad.”

The little fiend subsided with another suggestive moan.

So it continued throughout the night, each of the unclean chorus adding a tale of woe and humiliation. A heavenly angel might well have wept at the sight their desolation. At last the ancient visitor thrust a burning finger downward, indicating the base of the blackened tree these spirits infested. He singled out the only member who had not spoken yet. This was a tiny specimen, all fidgets and twitches and gestures of nervousness, little more than a mass of wrinkles with seven spindly fingers on each of his shrunken hands. He shook with terror feeling the gaze upon him.

“Who is this?” came the great one’s voice.

“I am the Imp of Obsession,” was the barely whispered reply.

“How do you earn your living?”

“I busy myself with the holy men who waste their lives on scripture. I drive them to look for meaning where there is none. I also torment cows and goats by goading their masters to milk them when they are dry, often leading to ulceration, sometimes even infection. Thus, I do my humble best to bring about the end of the human epoch through damnation. I strive thereby for our own emancipation.”

“But have you tried your hand with little Flora?”

The Imp of Obsession steadied his head, fought to quell his stammer, spoke with the sound of a woodpecker striking wood: “Who am I to attempt to accomplish what lust and rage and vanity could not do? Who am I to apply my skills where pride and naked avarice bit the dust? The child is immune to envy, impervious to deceit. My wretched gifts do not compare. I lack the unholy presumption. In short, Great Father, my honest answer is no.”

Who can imagine the sound of Satanic laughter? Which of us wants to try? The reader must make that decision. But understand that whatever its sound, Satanic laughter bent the trees and the beasts that remained the forest departed in haste.


September 22, 2014

Boots: By Puss Possessed

Filed under: Jeffrey Marlin — louisproyect @ 3:31 pm

Puss; By Boots Possessed


(This is the fourth in a series of guest posts from Jeffrey Marlin whose e-books, including this one, are available from Amazon.com. )

Every wonder how a cat got so smart? The answer is simple. His brain has been taken over by the ghost of a grieving miller with the help of sympathetic Seraph. Only after rescuing his vice-ridden son Freddle from the clutches of justice will the miller be permitted to join his wife in heaven. His own corpse having been roasted by lightning, the cat’s concussed corpus offers the next best vehicle. The resulting chimera’s task is not easy. Nor will it be completed until a profound social revolution liberates peasants and domestic species alike. At this point an inhabited Puss (the feline’s own mind has been confined to a lobe of the left cerebellum where it’s convinced it must be dreaming) has already passed Freddle off as a noble knight for whom the lovely Princess Dysphoria is falling hard. Now he must begin job number two: taking over a great castle currently occupied by a sadistic, tax-evading ogre whose conduct appalls the entire neighborhood. Here we see Puss addressing a field full of peasants wearily scything barley while a blizzard swirls around them — as required by their unforgiving owner.

 * * * *

 Tall in his boots, Puss harangued the assembled. Though very few saw him, his voice boomed like thunder. “I come with a message of hope for the peasants who slave all year ‘round for cankerous ogres.”

Pitchforks suspended, they drew to attention.

“I’ve heard as I’ve traveled the county and Kingdom that yours is a master of turbulent practice whose greatest delight is a hanging or beating. I will not mince words: I abhor such behavior. And so does my Master, the Marquis d’Freddleburg, sent here by fate to undo your oppression.

“He drinks very deep from the cup of compassion and will, by his magic, dismantle the management, slaughter the owner, and bring to his peasants a fair dispensation.” Up rang a cheer from the laboring classes ground down to despair by their ogerine master. Pussy provided specific instructions:

“Remain in the fields for an hour or two until down from the highway devolves the King’s carriage. You’ll easily know it. ‘Tis filigreed gold and though faux, quite artistic. The wagon is drawn by twelve overweight geldings. Before and behind it ride mounted battalions. Additional carriages, smaller in size, bear assorted advisors, physicians and lawyers. On spotting this Royal attraction come running, then kneel by the roadside in orderly fashion. Whence, rise to your feet with your sickles on high and give cheer to my Master, the Marquis d’Freddleburg.”

“This we shall do,” sang the hundreds as one, for they heard in his thunder the song of salvation.

“And when you have done so, repair to your hovels and sit by the fire and cuddle your young ones. And nevermore fear that a grumbling ogre will break in the door to berate you for idleness.”

Then and again came a gushing of cheers for both Master and cat and their overdue mission. “I go to announce that the Marquis d’Freddleburg comes with the King to take over the barley. Your ogre will flee or be slain in the hour.” They lifted their garments to show him their bruises and shouted suggestions for breaching the castle.

Puss found a cellar door open to entry. And there he was met by a matronly tortoise-shell, lavishly whiskered and sleek as an otter. She spoke to Sir Puss on a number of levels. While deep in the lobe of the left cerebellum, the mind-of-the-cat was both thrilled and divided.

On one hand, though love as a noble conception had never been part of his life-long adventure, he found himself pierced by the Cherubim’s arrow and swooned in the joy of romantic fulfillment. Though late in the game for so pure an emotion, aware that it’s only a function of dreaming, I’m nevertheless unreservedly grateful. And yet, he continued, his nostrils now glowing, I feel that frustration will surely destroy me, should I be denied very quick consummation!

The passions and thoughts of Old Pussy sequestered were kept, by design, from the mind of the Miller. And yet, as before, he could never extinguish the oncoming odor nor stifle the tingle.

“I am Sir Puss and a magical cat,” he announced to the creature regarding him warmly, a scent of approval suffusing the atmosphere. “I am disposed to the speech of the humans and serve a great noble, the Marquis d’Freddleburg.”

“Call me Libida,” the female suggested, a half-eaten rodent fast losing her interest.

“My mission today is to meet with your master, the ogre who lives all alone in the castle along with his servants and hundreds of peasants and cats like yourself and less dignified species. How well do you like him, if I may inquire?”

Libida returned him an eye full of fire. “I loathe and detest and distain revile him. I wish him the worst and pray nightly against him, inviting the Devil to come and arrest him. He’s eaten my kittens and drowned my poor husband and gods only know of my sisters and brothers. What business have you, Mr. Magical Cat, with this plague of all nature and student of cruelty?”

“Briefly, I’m here to commend him to memory.”

“Kill him?”


“Let us put end to that shape-shifting travesty. How shall I help thee achieve it most violently?”

“Tell me the whole of your knowledge about him. His tastes and compulsions and powers and weaknesses; factors historic and current particulars. Vet me his nature in word and behavior, his urges and longings and terrors and cravings.”

“I shall without preface, Sir Puss, for I love thee. And wish thee success in this hazardous venture.” And so for an hour Libida wove details. The Miller made note of each relevant datum; confected a plan to achieve his objective.

Yet never a moment passed by without struggle. For deep in the lobe of the left cerebellum the Self of the cat remained clutched by desire. And never a nerve or a tendon or muscle was free from the strum of erotic sensation.

That whiskered perfection and gem of creation, at last having shared every scrap of intelligence useful to putting an end to the monster, at last fixed her eyes on the prince of all mousers. They shone with a bright and exuberant yellow that rattled the cat to its bubbling marrow.

“The mission you plan is a hazardous business. There’s no way to know you will live to the finish. I’ve been without husband for several long seasons, and you seem well stocked with the old-fashioned moxie. I hope you will stay just another few moments to dive in the fire I’m patiently stoking. ”

The odors infilling and grilling his nostrils encumbered the Miller’s intransient spirit. He croaked in a suddenly wobbly diction, “Heaven forbid I give in to this horror, succumb to the beast while my rescue of Freddle is pledged to the wife who is queen of my bosom…”

Then nothing remained of his noble resistance.

Their howls rang out from the depths of the basement. Mice clung together in squeaking aphasia. Horses reared up in the hay of the stable. The peasants at home in their hovels felt queasy. And when it was over, the dreamer sequestered redoubled his vow never, ever to waken. The Miller, however, was deeply conflicted. For shame, like a shroud, cast its shadow around him. He could not deny the experience left him not nearly so sickened as might be expected. Despite he lacked body, a warming sensation pervaded the ghost with a deep satisfaction. Perhaps, he reflected, such wretched behavior is part of the price I must pay going forward. If I’m to succeed in my rescue of Freddle, I may need Libida’s continued assistance.

He waited ‘till all of the limbs became steady then dashed up the stairs to the castle’s great dining hall seeking that grand and felonious creature who gazed out a window as wide as all nature that reached from the floor to the chandeliered ceiling enframing a vista of limitless barley entombed by the fruit of the ongoing blizzard.

The Miller took breath upon glimpsing the creature. Then molded his mouth to say: “Begging your pardon!”

The monster wheeled ‘round to confront his intruder. The bell of his alto, refined as red wine, stood in contrast grotesque to its horrid proportions: “And you, sir?” the dread apparition demanded.

At seven feet high, he was human in structure but covered with thickets of wicked small bristles. ‘Round he was wrapped in robe of vermillion trimmed richly by pelts of unfortunate marmots whose fur was like snow lying soft on the barley. His head was a buffalo’s sprouting such antlers as favored by demons and goats of the mountains. The beak of a badger-hawk curved to its chin and a snaggled arrangement of human dentition grinned out from the muscular jaws of a lion. His paws were configured for murder and mayhem. Long talons extruded his digits like sabers. His feet bore a set of provocative toenails. His eyes were as red as the bloodiest sunset.

He snarled at the cat and informed him in whisper: “Present me some scrap of a justification for breaching this chamber without invitation. I’m only too happy to puncture and gut thee in hopes of a flicker of mild entertainment.”

He raised up a cane carved of needle-sharp ivory.


August 30, 2014

Redwina and the Manwolf

Filed under: Jeffrey Marlin — louisproyect @ 7:19 pm




(This is the third in a series of guest posts from Jeffrey Marlin whose e-books, including this one, are available from Amazon.com. )

The popular Red Riding Hood myth features vulnerable women terrorized by vicious beast until rescued by a one-dimensional “woodsman.” We all recognize (and deplore) the cultural biases served by this outmoded yarn. Today’s version is told in the voice of one elderly forester speaking to another as they wait out a blizzard in a bare forest cabin. It introduces deeply flawed twin brothers (Radleigh and Brother) whose sad fortunes engage three generations of Ridinghood women graced by wisdom, erudition, and courage. At this point in the story, one twins has already succumbed to the mutating bite of a young wolf, while the other is about to encounter two of the above for the first time.

“The sun cast its warmth with a generous hand through the tops of the birches and maples and larches. The budding of springtime unbuttoned such vapors as rise from the tremulous sexual organs which poets refer to with frank admiration as wild, aromatic, and colorful flowers. Songbirds alert to the joy of the season pitched in with their musical chirping and tweeting. In short, at the moment his sibling went wolfish, young Radleigh knew nothing of Brother’s misfortune.

“But rather his ear was afflicted by cries which resembled the sound of a crow doing battle, condemning the blue jay to hell and perdition and daring that cheeky marauder come hither. Yet this was no crow for the creature had words that no bird ever spoke on this side of creation. ‘Retreat, vile intruder, or you will complain of a hundred broke bones and a merciless skinning!’

“Now Radleigh stood still in the shade of a maple, his ears opened wide for additional dialogue, instincts impatient to render protection. The threat he’d just heard soon devolved to a cry of more general rage and a flurry of curses. Then entered the play a more pleasant soprano, whose lightness of tone and superlative diction bespoke a more tragically heart-rending story. ‘I beg you; take me for your hideous purpose, but leave my poor mother her limbs and her organs.’

“Having established the needful direction, the valiant young woodsman made hard for the action. A handful of steps showed a little stone cottage alone in a clearing of well-tended gardens, the center of which proved the scene of a drama as dreadful as any he’d recently witnessed. For there stood a matron of vivid dimension, built squarely and thick as piling of granite. Her pitchfork in hand, her unyielding expression confronting a monstrous bear of the forest.

Just off to the side stood a breathtaking maiden whose golden complexion partook of the sunshine, whose horrified lips bore the color of rubies, whose spacious dark eyes betrayed fear overflowing. She begged once again for the life of her mother: ‘Do chew me to bits as befits your digestion but spare from your maw my ancestral connection.’ Yet never the horror paid any attention, maliciously flaunting his gleaming dentition.

“The bear was much larger than those of today, standing almost as high as a mythical elephant, slavering canines as long and as sharp as our higher born princes might carry for daggers. His roar drove the children of earth and of air in disorderly panic to quit the location. He suddenly rose on his muscular haunches, preparing to strike without pity or caution. ‘Oh, no,’ cried the beauteous daughter distraughtly. ‘Oh yes,’ said the predator’s menacing posture.

“Adroitly he sprang with his eye full of mayhem, his claws glowing bright and his jawbone extended. And surely his prey, now absorbed in her prayers could expect nothing more from her sojourn among us. Likewise, that child whom she stood to defend looked ahead to the worrisome life of an orphan.

“When flew from the edge of the garden-strewn clearing, the furious axe of an agitate Radleigh. Its edge found a home in the skull of the monster, dividing the left from the right cerebellum. And so fell the beast at the foot of the matron, who hastily planted a toe in its rectum, persisting to kick wheresoever she felt that a dosing of vengeance might prove advantageous.

“My Dear, you can hardly imagine the scene. The blood of the ursine marauder flowed over like soup from the lip of a mighty tureen, just as red as the juice of a hot summer beet from which sibilant vapors rose swiftly above it. The woodland exploded with infamous chatter. The woodsman and savior in whom we take pride threw a glance in the beauteous maiden’s direction. Her exquisite form now assumed the recumbent, displayed like a jewel in a garden of cabbage. Unnoticed by mother still chiding her nemesis, only the hesitant breath of her bosom told Radleigh her soul had not fled from the premises.

“Swiftly he rushed to assist and assure her. He lifted her willowy form to his shoulder. He felt in the warmth that invaded his bosom a powerful force of magnetic attraction more potent of magic than he had encountered in nearly a thousand unbridled adventures. He too, might have fainted, except he was chartered with holding aloft the still senseless survivor. Now mother at last having done with the corpse made a gracious approach with her right hand extended, the pitchfork still gripped by the apposite member.”

The narrator chose to enliven his story with voices specific to all the participants, kicking it off with the noise of a crow as its owner let fly with this keen observation. “That’s quite a nice axe, as I think and I say so,’ declared a rough natured but kindly Ma Ridinghood.

“’My name is Radleigh, the woodcutter’s son, and I’m pleased to have shattered the hopes of your visitor. Likewise, I’ve hoisted up onto my shoulder an exquisite creature, who, having defied that unblinking assassin, more recently slept as a sister to cabbages.’

Mother regarded the fruit of her womb with a mixture of pity and honest affection: ‘Yes, any excitement will fell that poor child whose has never partook of my lust for adventure. She leans to a cautious and girlish demeanor, eschewing the risk for which I’m always ready. And so she advised me to stay in the house when that blasphemous bear sought to pilfer my honey.

“Yet I grabbed my pitchfork and might have prevailed had you not flung your axe with such perfect discretion. I must say she seems quite at ease on your shoulder. I see no good reason why we should disturb her. Come round to the back and my little veranda. I’ll make us some tea and dry herbals for smoking. Then, when my daughter is conscious again she may climb from your person to thank you directly.’


August 17, 2014

Jack and the Timestalk

Filed under: humor,Jeffrey Marlin,literature — louisproyect @ 6:34 pm

Jack and the Timestalk

(This is the second in a series of guest posts from Jeffrey Marlin whose e-books, including this one are available from Amazon.com. )

This challenging version of Jack and the Beanstalk takes a critical look at finance capitalism, imperial politics, state religion, sadism as statecraft, the nature of time, and related lesser themes. Like all timeless stories, it has its beginnings in common human flaws. Chapter One plunges us directly into the vortex when Jack’s desperately poor, deeply traumatized household finds itself laid lower still by another disabling shock.

Jack found Mother digging Father’s grave.

She worked at the end of a vegetable garden that yielded no better than ragweed and clover. Her skeletal frame was as spare as the spade that was blunted by use and of meager assistance. The strings of her hair fluttered stiff in the atmosphere, every one stubborn and strange to its sisters.

“I saw Father die,” Jack informed her politely.

She turned at the sound but displayed no excitement. Her small emerald eyes were decidedly dry as her love for her husband, once slight, had expired. What troubled her now was the difficult duty that loomed on the edge of a ruined horizon.

She wiped at her brow with a sleeve gone to tatters.

“Child, have you witnessed him brained by Matilda?”

“I slept in rickety lap of the hayloft, distaining my chores at the side of the highway.”

He should have been roaming the much traveled thoroughfares searching for soot-covered fragments of anthracite fallen like pebbles from coal-traders’ wagons. He knew he’d no business refreshing himself in the cool of the tumbledown barn in the morning.

“And then?” she persisted, a note of severity clearly intended but widely eluding her.

“Pa wandered in with his milk pail a’ clanging. He settled his stool by the unwilling animal. Touching his hand to her ulcerate udder incited a sudden, unfeigned indignation. She groaned her annoyance and eyed him maliciously. Father assaulted the desiccate organ. The twitch of a tendon and swishing of tail posted eloquent notice to ‘Tilda’s intention. He tilted his brow in the lethal direction. Her hoof found a wing and his braincase exploded, unleashing the sound of the late summer thunder. And rather than linger to rescue survivors, I fled in the sweat of my fear and my triumph.”

“I casted all blame on the cow,” mused his mother. “But she was his instrument, utterly innocent.”

Jack was relieved by so mild a reply, for while hiding all day in a ditch in a cornfield he’d feared an inquisitive light in her eye and a volley of questions requiring answers: Did you not warn the old man of his peril? Or stop for an instant to mend up the fracture?Or cry for a parent to join you in mourning?

He’d also considered the life soon to follow. The issue outstanding was whether his mother would man the tradition her husband invented, the sting of the wand in reply to transgressions defined to encompass the measliest error.

The day of her watching from doorways was over.

She must do the wickedest business herself or submit to the rule of maternal emotions – foregoing the branch and accepting the worst of Jack’s endlessly impish, nay roguish, behavior.

The boy had no means of predicting her thinking. So, watching her wrestling spadesful of garden, he tested her gumption and probed her position by pressing the following order of inquiry: “May we not slaughter Matilda for eating?”

“She carries no fat or respectable sinew.”

“What of the marrow alive in her femurs with plenty of oil for the frying of supper? Boil up her hide for a snack in the winter – when edible weeds become scarcer and tougher!”

Mother sighed deeply and Jack knew the reason. They needed the pennies Matilda might bring them. Father stole bravely but had not the gift for it; often was caught and then savagely punished, accounting for tendencies vented on family.

Absent the fruits of his nominal larcenies, what would they live on and how to procure it?

Better to barter what piffle they could for an ill-tempered creature a decade past milking. (Though hitched to a plow she might grudgingly pull it.) The beast wasn’t even a little beloved – except by the master whose skull she’d dismantled. He’d he kept her around as a breathing reminder of better days gone and a hopeful tomorrow.

Jack let the subject of butchery fizzle.

Mother ground acorns and served them with sparrow.

Then, before sleeping, she tested her conscience confronting her stark, unavoidable choices. Not overly backboned she’d come to admire her husband’s commitment to corporal discipline. Nevertheless she collapsed into weeping as Jack cried to Heaven protesting his whippings.

Now she was caught by the fork of dilemma. Surrender her duty or pick up the willow? She stiffened her spine in the midst of her sorrow.

She vowed that tomorrow would pay for today and let Jack once abandon the courteous pathway and vex her again with impertinent questions, she’d stand to her task with a gritty persistence, as Father would do, although anguish engorge her.

A shiver of unexpressed anger tormented her; forced her to think how the man had abandoned her. Longed she to rise from the grave of her bed and make straight for that bovadine venue of slaughter.

She yearned to bestraddle the stool of Matilda expanding her nostrils to smell her own dying. She’d rise from this prison of bone and resentment and bend an ephemeral head looking downward to glimpse all her misery cracked like an eggshell.

Then search out her husband now blistered in Hell and in penitent dread of her vengeful arrival.

But here was the turbulent boy to look after; a millstone to drag through her burdensome labors. So flowed the gist of abrasive reflections which bled into dreams as her husband pursued her with fiery torch never giving her respite before she awoke to the pain of the morning.

She gathered up weeds from the cornfields adjacent.

These had been theirs until stolen at auction – required by law for repayment of losses. She mashed the leaves thoroughly, seasoned them sparingly, summoned her son from his desolate bed to imbibe her instructions along with his breakfast:

“All hope for tomorrow resides in your person.

“Now lead old Matilda to sale at the market.

“Insist on the price nor surrender a penny as long as the bubbling sulfur keeps rising. Relent as it slowly subsides to the West and its sinister shadow grows longer and darker.

“Accept what you must should she garner no offers as farmers pass by and no bidders step forward and all appear lost and the moon mock our losses come end of the reddening day.”

“Mother, I beg thee let’s slaughter the monster, a mooing accomplice to murderous suicide, presently toasting her skull and her femurs and rendering each for the sumptuous marrow.”

“Wherefore the coal or the requisite firewood? How shall we gather up fuel for the roasting?”

“Give me the morning to steal what I’m able.

“Otherwise break up the barn and we’ll burn it.

“Relinquish my father’s delusional thinking that we will be farmers and prosper tomorrow. No longer a jade to his merciless ways and his many abusive, disquieting habits, abandon the ghost of that shit-bestained man and his vilely degenerate use of the willow.”

Try as she might she could hardly deny that he’d tested her well past the point of postponement. Hand over heart, with a groan in her throat, she directed the impudent boy to bend over.


August 7, 2014

The Three Wicked Pigs

Filed under: humor,Jeffrey Marlin,literature — louisproyect @ 3:23 pm

Jeffrey Marlin, a friend for the past 53 years, has produced a number of fiction titles now available as Amazon e-books. I’ve mentioned them here in the past. By way of introduction I should add that Jeffrey has the added distinction of weaning me off Goldwater conservatism in 1961 when I was a callow 16-year-old freshman at Bard College and moving toward the Camus-style existential liberalism that was prevalent on the campus. You might say that if not for his intervention, I never would have become a Marxist later on. In effect, my liberalism became a gateway to Marxism, just as marijuana leads to heroin. So that’s that.

Starting today, Jeffrey will serve as a guest blogger, offering extended excerpts from these books once a week over the next few months. He’ll start with his Tales of the Great Moral Symmetry series, verse novels that take popular fables in very unexpected directions. The new feature kicks off with Chapter One of THE THREE WICKED PIGS, wherein the widely despised villain of this venerated piece is revealed to have problems of his own.

The Three Wicked Pigs

The Wolf walked alone, for no clan could abide him.

His four-footed kind looked askance at his habits. They loathed his perversely irregular posture, refusal to share, and insistence on clothing. They winced at his claims of superior breeding, his hissing contempt for the rest of his species.

What stood him apart from the run of his breed was a tragically fractured historical narrative; earliest circumstance stained and bespattered by grief unconducive to healthy development. Family slain by the highest-born ogres who hunted for pelts of the lupine persuasion, The Wolf was made captive by Royal marauders who flaunted the skins of his kin on their shoulders.

Confused by the likeness of mother and father, mistook his abductors for substitute parents and gave them his love in exchange for acceptance.

He sat at their fire imbibing their thinking; comported himself as a source of amusement, a mascot imbued by a knack for hilarity.

Mimicked their method of two-legged walking and put on their raggedy, cast-away garments. He grappled their language and preoccupation with spirits of darkness that seek to control us. He joined in discussions of civilized living – to which they aspired, but lacked the essentials. He pondered the number of forks on the table, the delicate question of beating inferiors. What were the ways of the uppermost nations?

How ought the ogres devise emulation?

He came to delight in their wide speculations on races of mortals in faraway places. He ventured his thinking per mythical beings.

A pet of the court of the King of the Ogres, his head in their laps ever eager for stroking, he loved to roll over and beg for a scratching. And romp at their sides when the ogres went hunting. And so he was loved by the young and the aged with whom he comingled as daily companion.

Conformed to a diet of meat from the table he grew to the size of a lupine colossus. And this saved his life when his luck ran against him. A famine descended in wake of the locusts which plague every seventh and twelfth generation. The Ogerine Kingdom grew grievously famished as crops turned to dust and the herbivores vanished.

The King of the Ogres suggested the populace gulp their emotions and sauté their parakeets; ordered his subjects make fritters of monkeys and published an edict per ferrets and puppies. The Wolf, for the heft of his flesh and his femurs, stood first among those to be sent to the cleaver.

The King spoke his heart to that innocent creature: “The Wolf, we are grieved that the reign of starvation requires your imminent decapitation, reluctant de-pelting, and deft preparation. But this is the dictate of civilization. Famine enjoins us to slaughter familiars; in order of march go the pets before children. So it must be among better-bred nations, to which we aspire as best we are able.

“And now that we’ve nourished you up to a giant, the harvest is come and we ask your compliance that we may distribute your tissues among us. Your tonnage of protein and rivers of marrow will keep us alive for a better tomorrow. We wish that the ending were very much different, but bid you submit to this difficult finish aware that our love is in no sense diminished.”

The Wolf could not hide his intense disappointment. “But am I not one of the family party? Erect as an ogre and clad in your garments? Have we not spoken at length by the fire? Compacted our minds in dissecting the universe? Am I no more than a gibbering primate? A cat on a leash? An uncircumcised parrot? What of the lives I have saved on the hunt and the hundreds of times you have tickled my tummy?”

The creature’s complaint bore the truth of an arrow. It lodged in the bosom of each within hearing. The eyes of the wives and the children grew teary. Blessing the beast who was soon to be dinner, the King of the ogres, though hollowed by hunger, yet showed his respect by delaying the process to offer this tenderly felt explanation:

“’Tis true, you’ve lived gently amidst and among us whilst sharing our thoughts and the wealth of our table. How often we’ve lauded your bipedal posture and habit of sporting our gloves and our stockings. Nor any deny that you’ve mastered our speech more completely than many a natural ogre.”

Touched to the bone by so humid a tribute, The Wolf cried aloud in his honest confusion: “Then how am I fit for inglorious stewing?”

“For lack of a soul which partakes of the vices and widely notorious virtues of ogres observed in the high-born, especially Royals, less evident surely in petty nobility, dormant recessive in ogerine peasants and largely extinct in our soldiers and simpletons. Here I am speaking of lust, sloth, and vanity, bubbling avarice, blubberous gluttony, pride and corruption, abiding brutality.

“Much as you’ve dabbled in low metaphysics and cheered our debauches with bloodthirsty giggles, and woven our spells in the voice of the cello (a gift of our Maker’s unstinted benevolence) yet notwithstanding the ogerine soul is the ogre’s alone and foreclosed to the Wolven. For this is the line we have drawn by tradition; on one side our own, on the other perdition. And so, with regret, other options prohibitive, gamely relinquish your hopes and ambitions.”

Far worse than the fact of his death in the offing, The Wolf was undone by his dread of rejection – the product, we’ve seen, of a much-perturbed infancy. Thus he was gripped by primordial terror. It darkened his blood and obstructed his vision, unhinging his mind and his prim inhibitions. It severed his heretofore supine affections releasing the instincts imbedded by nature.

Instead of assuming the prayerful position inviting the axe and its lethal sequellum, he leapt at the throat of the King of the Ogres dividing the heart from the shoulder and belly, nor pausing to rest but devoured the servants, the wives standing by and a dozen of children. Refreshed and renewed by the influx of protein, yet stung to the core of his put-upon psyche, The Wolf made his way through the phalanx of officers charging en masse to the scene of the slaughter.

Attracted too late by the angst of the babies they covered their eyes in their grief as they passed him. And so he departed the tumbledown castle of misaligned boulders and happenstance brickwork (the off-putting look which the ogres preferred for their humblest hovels and highest-born dwellings.)

Pursued by his fears of a warm retribution he traveled by night and by evening and morning. Nor stopped all that month for so long as an hour as time may be judged in the depths of a forest. For hot on his heels came conflicted emotions more aimed at his heart than the arrows of ogres. He carried a rage burning angry as fire, as heavy as stone and unyielding as iron. Imprisoned by anguish engulfing his psyche, he found no relief in the pleasure of killing. It lasted an instant before it was spoiled by the onset of sorrow and gush of self-pity.

He found in his travels no home with his kindred, whose views he disparaged as crude and simplistic. He stole from the clotheslines whatever might fit him and sought in the sinews of cattle and rabbits and gophers and mole-rats comprising his diet, the taste of the souls of his late beloved ogres.

But never again did he savor the Heaven that dwelt in the delicate flesh of the Royals.

He sniffed as he covered inordinate distances, always alert for the warm reminiscence of jealousy, vanity, avarice, gluttony, pride, and the hint of abiding brutality. Such was the life of the fugitive hunter whose hunger was more for redemption than sustenance. Thusly he wandered the islands and continents searching in vain for an end to his suffering.

Living his life through consumption of others, The Wolf was consumed by a cratering lovelessness.

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