Sunday, October 31, 2010

Floating The Raven

Hello everyone. It's yet another Halloween night. As usual, I find myself with nothing to do. Dressing up in costume has never overly excited me. There hasn't been a truly engaging horror movie worthy of that descriptor in half a decade. Once you pass the age of Trick or Treat, Halloween loses a great deal of its lust our. Despite every attempt to the contrary, I've never been able to find my way into those social circles where Halloween lives on for adults in the form of parties and other events. Those connections have passed me by. I've done everything there is to do here. Despite pumping hours into the Haunted House pinball table in ESP Pinball Classic over the last month, the game refuses to yield up a high score greater than fifty million points. That particular table has always been a favourite. Check it out at:

Rather than let yet another special day pass in unremarkable fashion, I've decided to head out for a meal at a steakhouse I've recently discovered. Sambruno's Steakhouse is a small independent restaurant found at 2372 Sharp Street just off of GlenErrin. Instead of going under the street to get to the Meadowvale Town Centre, I just have to turn right and walk down Glenerrin a short way. I then come to Sharp Street and turn right. A stand of pine trees tells me when I've arrived at the steakhouse's driveway. The food is good and the music isn't too noisy. Mark and Wendy rather enjoyed the meal we ate there last weekend. Not too many people seem to have heard of the place yet. The prices are hard to beet though and the steak is just as good as one can imagine. They won't be hard up for customers very long I'd wager.

Navigating along the edge of the driveway and parking lot, I thankfully arrive at the door. There's always a danger of getting disoriented in parking lots. Sitting down at a small table near the door, I fold my cane and relax. The ambience is nice even if the choice of music is somewhat antiquated. It isn't too loud though. Just enough to render a long silence amid conversation more comfortable. The kitchen is situated towards the back of the place. It's door is flanked on either side by shelf-mounted stained glass statuary. Mainly, they're of various donkeys.

There's hardly anybody else here. I've just managed to settle myself when Gordo comes to my table. He's the only waiter in Sambruno's Steakhouse and is the sun of Mr. Geppetto, the chef of the establishment. I exchange pleasantries with the young man and order a beer. It's not like I'll be driving home after all. I ask if there are any specials on this evening. He informs me that I would do his father a great honour if I would try the filet immortalis. I'm always game for something new and agree to do so.

Gordo brings me a rich and foam-topped Bold Heart Bitter and leaves me to await my filet immortalis. I usually tend to drink rather slowly. However, I unaccountably find myself taking large gulps of this quite tasty brew. As I do, I'm filled with dark reflections about how life has turned out for me. All the effort gone unappreciated and leading nowhere. My creativity, once full of idealism and seemingly endless, now sputtering along in constant threat of vanishing for long stretches of time. Barring an outright miracle, I seem doomed never to find true and lasting love despite all my gifts and the best of intentions. A button just had to go and pop off my favourite pair of trousers this morning. The nerve! And then there was that formerly delicious orange that just had to turn bad the instant before I started to peel it. Why did I even come here? What was I expecting? I'm the only customer in this place. Even when I make an effort to go out, I seemed condemned to be alone! And what does the blasted sun think it's doing popping off for the evening so early? It's not like people get Halloween off! And then there's that ice cube that fell from the tray while I got a drink. Spent fifteen minutes chasing that thing around my kitchen floor as it melted away getting harder to find! Roar!!! I've somehow finished the whole drink already! What a rip off!

Showing a distinct measure of bravery, Mr. Geppetto brings me my steak dinner. My countenance must be a dreadful thing after such a fiercely negative line of thinking. That negativity quickly fades when I catch a proper sniff of my rather large dinner. It smells like the best steak one could possibly conceive of. The potato's, mushrooms and vegetables smell wonderful also, but they don't even rate consideration when compared to that delicious steak. There's a seemingly endless amount, more than I could ever hope to consume.

"I am most curious to know what you think of this steak. Other than myself and Gordo here, you are the first to try what I regard as my masterpiece." He eagerly stands watching as I cut off a piece and take my first bite. "What do you think of it?" He asks eagerly but not without trepidation.

"I've never tasted a steak this good before!" I answer truthfully as I dig in at full speed. "How did you prepare it?"

"That is a secret I will share with no one including my son Gordo. God willing, it will die with me. There is something profoundly precious about things or experiences which are only available for a short time. One strives for them all the harder if there comes a point beyond which one's desire cannot be satisfied. I made this steak in order to help others consider what it would be like to live forever. Hence, its name. You have eaten and enjoyed, but have some water and take a moment to consider." He hands me a glass of ice water and I do as he asks of me. "I have not always cooked in a steakhouse. We all take on so many roles in even a single lifetime. I was once known for my skill at carving wood. I have also been a fisherman, soldier, father, priest, and traitor to my beloved Italy when she fell to fascism under a greedy dictator who then allied with one of history's most evil men. This was when Gordo and I came to the new world. I have seen a great many marvels and have reinvented myself countless times. I grow very weary of that and believe I will remain in this steakhouse until I go to meet the one who made me."

As Mr. Geppetto talks, I can't help but hear that something swings slightly at his neck. Some sort of medal perhaps? He did say he was once a soldier. I ask him about it and he says that he has always worn this bronze medallion depicting a raven ever since it was given him many years ago.

"Call me superstitious, but I believe it keeps me in good health and alive. Let us not wander though. Think on what it truly means to live forever. You would know for certain that you would out-live any friends, lovers, or children you might raise. Everyone you know will eventually die and leave you to continue life's endless journey without them. You would live long enough to see anything you created crumble away and lie forgotten..."

He expounds further on this but my mind is otherwise engaged. I would be alive to know how absolutely everything turns out. I would experience all the marvels humanity devised. The future would be pretty much endless. I would also remain in the perfectly satisfactory healthy condition I currently enjoy. Mr. Geppetto was an old man when this gift was bestowed upon him. Of course he'd look at the glass as being half empty. The steak went down well enough but the burps I politely stifle are tasting like burnt shoe leather dipped in mud and dog turds. What's with that? Could immortality really be so unwelcome? Would it indeed lose its lust our? I ought to leave before I barf on the floor. While I'm on my way out, I believe I'll just snatch that medallion from his neck. He's told me enough to think there's something to that superstition. With my left hand, I successfully grab and yank hard on the medallion. He wasn't expecting that and bends forward so the chain comes off his neck easily. With my other hand, I pull out my cane which makes a formidable weapon at close range while folded and give him a thunderous thwack on the skull. Mr. Geppetto falls to the floor. Expecting a meaty thump, I instead hear a dusty clatter which confirms my hopeful suspicions. Without the medallion's magic to hold it at bay, time has at last caught up with this former wood-carver. I now hold perhaps the only key to immortality in my hands. Pocketing the medallion, I get out my duelling pistol anticipating trouble. How did a blind man get one of those? It pays to have interesting friends. Jape Watner and I attended the same Philosophy class in university where the whole issue of suicide came up for debate. Did we as human beings have the moral right to do ourselves in? He thought I should have an equal opportunity to blow my own head off as everyone else and so procured the seventeenth-century replica duelling pistol for me complete with powder and a single roundshot. Paradoxically, I now had the means to effect precisely the opposite of his intent and live forever. There's a cry of alarm and the distinct rasp of a large blade coming from behind me in the steakhouse kitchen. That spells trouble for me and the stakes will likely never be higher than right now. It's time to take my best shot and put this pistol to good use.

I turn and fire in the direction of the enraged yell and running feet. At last, I know what a genuine unrecorded honest to Got gunshot sounds like. Been curious about that for most of my thirty-six years. The shot misses Gordo and shatters one of the stained glass donkeys mounted on the shelf to the left of the kitchen. How utterly assinine! Shades! Such a shamefully shoddy shooting on Sharp Street! Poor Mr. Geppetto. I took his trinket, cracked his crown and nearly got his Gordo. As Gordo picks himself up off the floor from his headlong desperate tumble, I turn and run out the door. My talking GPS was never turned off but will take a bit to track in on me. Thankfully, the route back home is simple. I'm just not used to doing it at full tilt like this. At least there's no driving involved so I don't face the ignominious prospect of being T-boned after robbing a steakhouse. Didn't have to pay for my meal either. Flanks for nothing.

Rounding the corner onto GlenErin, I slow down as I listen for the underpass which will tell me to turn left and head towards home. It comes up quickly and I am now back on very familiar ground. My best defence is to try to appear as normal as possible. I therefore proceed leisurely along the path around the lake. I've really done it! Robbed a steakhouse blind and gotten away! Delicious, in more ways than one.

Slowing down gives me a chance to think about the evening's happenings. That steak tasted so good at first but so rotten after a while. Could immortality truly take on such a dismal lust our? It was hard to imagine. Could one really live so long that one got utterly tired of change? Behind all the glitz and gadgetry, was there really nothing new under the sun? Did I really want this for myself? So much to think about. Reaching a vacant park bench, I sit down to ponder further.

I had left quite a mess behind me. What would Gordo do? Going to the police seems out of the question. How would he explain his father's remains? How would he explain himself for that matter? He knows things only someone who had lived far longer than his apparent seventeen years would know. Clearly, Mr. Geppetto had somehow passed on some of his gift. How long had he been trapped at the threshold of manhood? How long ago had his mother died? I'm unlikely to be in any danger from that quarter. Despite the hefty hit on the head I gave him, Mr. Geppetto's last act had been to sigh in re leaf. This adds to my hesitation to put on the medallion. How did it work? If it could be willingly relinquished once put on, Surely Mr. Geppetto could have chosen his own hour of death. However, he had never done so. There always seems to be an additional price to pay for extraordinary abilities at least in folklore and such. Of course! It finally clicks. This medallion had been what animated Pinocchio before he became a boy. Everyone knows how Pinocchio ended his days; How he had once more become a wayward rascal and joined Bluebeard's crew of pirates; How he had tried to double-cross his captain due to an attack of conscience and been sentenced to hang from the yardarm [by the nose] until dead. Fate had other plans for the long-nosed liar. Before his sentence could be carried out, Bluebeard was attacked by a rival pirate. His ship and all aboard had been burned to ashes when the powder magazine exploded destroying the ship. Having lived as a human, Pinocchio nevertheless suffered a wood carving's fate. The man who, in death, wood boy be. However, no story explained how Pinocchio was originally animated. All those people who had seized Pinocchio for one misdeed or another had never realized what nestled deep in the hollow of his wooden heart. Once Pinocchio was a boy, he had no need of the medallion and the faerie had clearly chosen to give it to Mr. Geppetto.

Mr. Geppetto had been centuries old. Not only that, but he had been forced to live a life of complete honesty. The medallion couldn't prevent injury, but kept him in otherwise good health. However, had he lied to me about the medallion, his nose would have grown. No faerie remained to kiss it back to a proper length either. The world has moved on from those days. To live so long without ever even telling a white lie; An awesome achievement in and of itself. Not only that, but to find the strength to love again after outliving everyone he had ever known. Even without the gift or curse of immortality, Mr. Geppetto had clearly been a remarkable man.

Sitting by the lake, I hold the medallion and examine my desires. It's as if the world is holding its breath while I decide what to do with it. They say that time waits for no man. Am I the exception to that rule thanks to this stolen gift from a bygone age? If I decide wrongly, would it not only wait but also weep? That steak tasted so awful after it had gone down. Perhaps, more than anything else, this last work of art from a poor time-stretched soul is what ultimately compels me to stand once more. Facing the lake, I throw the medallion as far from me as I can. The last I hear of it is a quiet splash. I leave the length of my days to a wiser head than mine to decide. Heading towards home, I determine to float the raven nevermore.


I hope you've enjoyed this digital Halloween outing of mine. Did you catch all the wordplay? Presuming there's some interest, I may do another posting to go through all of that and how all the ideas occurred to me. For now though, I'll reveal one of the more sneaky ones. There was never a Jape Watner in my Philosophy classes. Jape, as some of you may know, is an old English word for a joke. The mind wants to hear and expect to hear Jake and I suspect the same would hold true visually. It goes without saying that I never have owned any firearms. However, I wanted a bad shot on Sharp Street and that angle was the best I could come up with. Rather than drive me at all towards suicide, my time in Philosophy class firmly convinced me of how all of our lives have value and should be treasured. Coming to believe in Christianity has only strengthenned that conviction. I hope eall my readers have a safe and happy Halloween.

1 comment:

Heather said...

Michael, that was WONDERFUL! And so worth reading. I really, really enjoyed it.