Mar 10, 2014
Posted on Mar 20, 2012
By Mr. Fish
Rolling back onto his stomach and readjusting himself so that his knees were brought up beneath his chest and his buttocks were resting on his heels, he once again closed his eyes and tried to retreat back into his own brain where he knew with absolute certainty who he was. Detecting no overt madness within the stark familiarity of his own mind, he decided that his metamorphosis was not a neurosis or a psychosis but more likely the result of something he’d eaten or perhaps something he’d contracted by touching or inhaling or being irradiated. Temporary or not, he told himself in the most comforting tone he could muster that the affliction seemed undeleterious of his mental facilities. It was, of course, small comfort, though sufficient enough to steady his heartbeat and to slow his breathing some. He then wondered whether there might be something to his initial assumption about being reborn as God. If he had come back as a more advanced life-form, then at least some explanation of what had befallen him could be embraced with some measure of relief. Satisfaction, even. After all, if his transformation was divinely inspired, then his predicament would be beyond his mortal comprehension and therefore not worth agonizing over. It would simply be his job to discover the cosmic purpose of his holy providence, or at least to sit back and be patient until such a purpose revealed itself—if, that is, it ever did reveal itself.
Then again, perhaps he was never a dung beetle to begin with and thus was not a freshly minted God now. Perhaps he had always been a common human being who had just been spiritually reborn with a refurbished soul, his dung beetle memories merely being a metaphor to describe the unenlightenment of his earlier life. He’d first learned of the phenomenon the previous spring while gnawing on a damp sponge beneath Mrs. Salcedo’s kitchen sink. It was sometime around 10 a.m., and the daffy widow with the homemade glass eye was on the telephone going on and on about how her nascent relationship with Jesus Christ had made her a brand new person. “Honest to God, Tessa,” she said, “after seeing that goddamn Mel Gibson movie on Channel 17 over Easter weekend I’m like a goddamn toddler! I feel like I’m starting my life all over again! I cry uncontrollably, I’m up to three naps a day, I can’t eat solid food! I wet myself just standing there looking out the window. Not only that, I can’t take two steps without my pants falling down and sending me tumbling over the backs of chairs and into lamps and down flights of stairs. I’m just about the cutest thing you ever saw!” Then there was the sound of somebody knocking at Mrs. Salcedo’s door. “Oh, sorry, Tessa. The super is at the door. Remember how I called him two years before Bud died to complain about the taste of the water coming out of the tap? Well, miracle of miracles, the sonuvabitch finally made it up here.”
As the elevator descended, Rep. Brown was on the telephone again, this time with somebody from The Huffington Post who had just heard a rumor that the congressman was planning to announce his candidacy for the highest office in the land within the week. “Listen, I don’t know who starts these rumors,” began Brown, doing his best to project the sort of aw-shucks modesty that one feigns when opening a present that is supposed to be a surprise but really isn’t. “However, I’m not sure that it’s up to me to disagree with the notion, especially if it’s something the public feels passionate about, that I wouldn’t be one hell of a great president. What was it that Mario Cuomo said: ‘You campaign in poetry and govern in prose?’ Well, I still have a novel to finish up on the Hill. The story I’m working on has a plot line that we’re all familiar with. It’s about a middle-class family that’s struggling to get by, with a father who needs to come home from the war, or, if he’s home, he needs to earn a living wage. And there’s a mother, too, who needs decent health care and a good education for her kids, and maybe a simple cloth coat and a nice pair of shoes. And they all need to have peace of mind and faith in their God and belief in their country. I’m still trying to create that ‘happily ever after’ ending.”
“So,” asked the journalist, sighing and checking his watch, “you’re saying that you have absolutely no plans to run for the office of president of the United States?”
“Blessed are you whose worthiness gives scope. Being had, to triumph, being lacked, to hope,” said the congressman. And then he hung up.
Again the wind blasted hard into the alleyway and flowed through Samsa’s body like gamma rays, but he barely noticed, having been blessed with what he now recognized as a brand new and oh-so-delightfully human talent for self-absorption. For the first time in his life he was able to completely lose himself in thought, the outside world be damned! Never before had he ever been so adept at distracting himself from what was literally accosting his physiology and nagging at his cognition for attention. Like climbing into an iron box and closing the lid, he fell into further contemplation of contemplation, itself, his consciousness a flashlight beam being directed to fall only upon mirrored objects flattering to his own egocentricity. The possibilities for self-discovery seemed endless in the same way that a beach will appear endless when considered in increments of individual grains of sand. His flashlight moved its tiny circle of light here and there, the surrounding darkness helping to convince him that, compared with all the invisibility of everybody and everything else, he was not at all insignificant.
Five days later, beneath the fractured rib cage and shredded, stained nightgown of an abandoned box spring, his brothers and sisters, too preoccupied with surviving to personalize their meal in search of a moral, were churning through his bowels, brain and gizzard and turning his corpse into a gory nest of wet leather and flies.
When Congressman Brown pulled his hand out of his pocket in front of the Willard Hotel to smooth his hair against the breeze, a quarter fell onto the sidewalk and rolled away before resting, face up, in a soggy pile of trash at the mouth of a corroded drainpipe. This pleased him, for without even trying to, he and the Father of Our Country made this garbage worth something.
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