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Friday, November 7, 2008

Tito Perdue's THE NODE - Excerpt #2

Of careers, he had had about twenty of them before he achieved the age of 28. Remember that in those days, when the average life endured for upward of 120 years and more, a person could dally for a great while before settling upon his authentic vocation. Accordingly he wasted a good four of those years in putting up dry wall for the neighbors and painting over it in acrylic. He was good at this and oftentimes could be seen grinning as he worked. Which is to say until there came the day when suddenly he grew bored with the whole process and turned around and left it, returning two days later to clean up the mess.
He was too old for college but went there anyway. Torn between Sanskrit and Real Estate, he used to come to class and, his face veiled, used to observe the modern youths who sometimes seemed more interested in each other than in what was inscribed upon the school’s armorial crest. Himself, he had hated old people when he was young, just as now he hated his co-students always moving in and out of view and, very often, trying to get a look behind his veil. The lesson was unmistakable – that the new generation was just as loathsome as the old one used to be.
He studied mining technology, choosing for his specialty the then-burgeoning kaolin industry. Linguistics was next, though he soon came to doubt the theory of the Indo-European mother tongue as the prime source of western grammar. No, he had seen better and more elegant formulations among certain contemporary rural individuals with whom he enjoyed a personal familiarity. It was mainly for that reason that he had veered over into the study of Moabite Antiquities and then followed that up with a three-month tutorial in The Schleswig-Holstein Problem.
Exhausted before he was granted a degree, he embraced a long stay in the fog-bound purlieu of Lago Todos Los Santos in South American Chile. Here, rising late, he reveled in the good sleeping the place afforded. And yet, here too, his money soon ran out. Angered by his imperative needs, he hitch-hiked back to the residual United States and accepted a profitable assignment enforcing the European Union’s universal hate crime laws.
His second stay at the University! Chile notwithstanding, he was tempted by seismology, by Pictish numismatics and other fields of study including most pleasurably (it was to prove his favorite subject) forensic nematology. Studied meta-chemistry and graphology, hotel management and resumé construction. Briefly he worked as an oculist, an occultist, a honey producer, trapeze artist, and wrote magazine articles for a journal laudatory of a certain breed of poultry. Briefer still, he tried to be a tin monger and then, finally, set up a rocks and minerals booth in Bryson City.
It was true that he had developed a small library, though nothing certainly like what his grandfather had built. Proudest among his volumes was the variorum edition on calf skin of Cockayne’s Leechdoms, Wortcunning, and Starcraft, a capacious volume that had served him more than once in dealing with his own diseases.
(Diseases: He suffered from glanders and shingles, from nose bleed and accelerated hair growth. Other inadequacies of his were focused mostly below the waist, including the two or three of them [not mentioned here] that he had inherited from his people.)
He possessed a copy of the Newe Metamorphosis of Marston together with a boxed set of the annotated A. A. Milne. The History of the World Conqueror by Juvaini was his, as also a medical dictionary, two novels by Jerome Wisdom, Mother Shipton’s Dream Book, and volume IV (only) of The Cambridge Medieval History. He had a dictionary.
By this time he had taken a certificate in Teaching English to English Speakers, thus providing himself with a rich source of money. Between this and dry wall and the few hundred-weight of strawberries he was able to produce on his 20 acres, he thrived very happily for about two years, which is to say until he ran into a girl with the sort of figure that spoke to him, never realizing until too late that she had been modernized.
“Why so uppity?” he asked. “And why so loud?”
“Oh? And how would you like it, to be a women in this testosterone hell?”
“All I ever wanted was to be a CEO!” She wept.
He had two tomes on scientific matters and in the wake of their divorce used some of his alimony to harvest volumes V and VI of the above-mentioned Cambridge set.


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