This One’s Fine
I am afraid of spiders but delighted by ants. I always want to know more about ants–about their culture, the ways they communicate, what sort of music they’re into–but I don’t want to know anything about spiders. Even a picture of a spider lifts my intestines up into my chest as if I am in free-fall.
One day, in Montreal, Samara comes with me to the Bibliothèque Nationales, so that she can vet a big photographic book of ants for me in case there are any pictures of spiders.
I hide behind my hands and listen to her turning the pages one by one.
“That one’s fine,” she says, “that one’s fine, this one’s fine, oh this one’s adorable.”
“Thank you for doing this, honey,” I say, still hiding, and I wonder if she finds this charming or if it’s finally dawning on her what she’s got herself into.
“This one’s fine,” she says, “this one’s fine, this one’s… oh my GOD.”
“A spider?” I ask.
“Are they eating it?”
“They’re eating parts of it,” she says, “And parts of it are eating them.”
“I don’t want to see it!,” I say, tightening the gaps in my fingers, “And I don’t want to hear any more about it!”
“Shh!” someone says, “Tabarwet…”
I listen to Samara close the book and put it back on the shelf. I hear it slide tightly and firmly, safe between the other entomological quartos.
Sometimes, at night, I think of that book and the horror I know it contains, on the other side of the ocean, existing.
Samara asks what a tiny home ghost story would be like.
“Smol,” I say.
Once l’esprit de l’escalier has kicked in, I realise that, since the story would be set in a converted shipping container, it would have to be about the ghost of a stevedore stranded deep inland with a couple of earnest hipsters.
The ghost and the hipsters would have different points of view on, like, everything.
Ellison mentions a book called the Jingle Jangle Tales. I don’t know what it is and I don’t care but it makes me imagine Crump-esque novel based on real and imaginary Jimmy Savile crimes, “Jingle Jangle” being one of his puerile catchphrases. It really could work. Jingle Jangle Tales: What Jim’ll Did Next.
There’s a big black tomcat who sits in the window of a flat downstairs. All he ever does it sit there on the back of a couch, watching people come and go with his big, golden eyes.
We call him Owly because (a) he looks a bit like an owl, and (b) we’re a pair of knuckle-heads.
Anyway, I’ve not seen him for a while. I hope he hasn’t died or run away. But why would he run away when there’s so much owling to be done?
That’s what we say he does, owling. He’s owling out into the street, burning holes into walls and through hedges with his piercing golden gaze.
“I saw Owly,” Samara might say when she comes in from work.
“Was he owling?” I’ll ask.
“Yes,” she might say, “Almost took my eye out.”
I hope he’s alright because who would do the owling? I don’t want to get roped into it.
Shadows on the Wall
To an arts centre (let’s not name it because I’m about to be a swine to it) for nine experimental short films from Japan, circa 1981.
In the event it’s only five films but that’s okay because I’m not sure how much longer we’d have been able to take it. And it’s not just our party of misery guts; half the audience is restless and squirming and quick to whisper to their neighbour about, tee-hee, maybe being the first ones to stand up and leave.
The problem is not that the films are naff (though they are naff, the point of screening not being to applaud their brilliance but to glimpse some creative acts whose points of origin happen to be a long time ago in a far-flung land) but that the screening room is so impossibly uncomfortable.
It’s hot and so poorly ventilated that we must all breathe air that has passed through the lungs of sixty other open-minded cinemagoers first, the oxygen value rapidly diminishing with every shallow gasp. I’ve suffered through many a Fringe sauna and leaky poetry tent in the name of ART but this screening room took the absolute cake.
Something does strike me about the films though and that is how pure and playful they are. They’re such small deals. Many short films now, though perhaps critically “better” than these five, exist either to launch careers or to show how sporting some famous director is to slum it in the upstart world of shorts.
But these are mere capsules of honest fun, almost like home movies. They are minor acts of affecting change in the world, like using your hands to cast animal shadows on the wall when there just happens to be a lamp at an obliging angle. Like my diary, I think. No biggie. Just shadows on the wall.