Blesok no. 58, January-February, 2008

Fables (excerpts)
From “Fourfront – Contemporary stories translated from the Irish”

Alan Titley

The Troublesome Young Woman

There was once a troublesome young woman whom her parents called a little bitch. Others called her other things but as her parents loved her dearly it was enough to call her a little bitch. And because they loved her dearly they did not throw her on the street even when she constantly stole their credit cards, crashed her mother's car, ripped her father's clothes, called them stupid fucking wrinklies and acted the general, well, bitch. But because they loved her dearly they would do anything to help her and even went so far as to bring her to a psychiatrist.
    “It's penis-envy,” he said, “no doubt about it. I've seen it many times before. Young women her age all suffer from it even if they don't admit it. And just because they don't admit it doesn't mean they don't suffer from it. Nothing here that a good man and a good bit of bonking will not cure.”
    Because they loved her and because they were paying good money to the psychiatrist they let her out about the town with as much money to visit the best night-clubs and stay in the best hotels as she wanted. Not that she needed any urging nor advice about where to go. But it was nice to be able to do it with her parents' (and the psychiatrist's) permission.
    She had a ball of a time with big hunky macho muscular types and long wiry athletic fit-freaks and flashy moneyed long-practised swingers for as long as she could and wanted. After that she came home and put the cat in the microwave oven, cut the heads off all the roses, gouged the tyres of her daddy's car, pissed in her mother's swimming pool and generally acted the, well, bitch.
    Because they loved her and were paying good money they brought her back to the psychiatrist.
    “It wasn't penis-envy,” said her father without going into much detail, “of that we can be absolutely sure.”
    “Well if it wasn't penis-envy,” said the psychiatrist, “it must be something else. Wait till I see.”
    And he took a big leatherbound book down from the shelf.

What Is To Be Done?
[from the play Tagann Godot/Godot Turns Up]

There was this man once upon a time and he was very confused.
    He searched through the libraries of the world and the scrolls of the scribes but he got no answer. And he studied with the wise professors of learning in the best institutions of knowledge and got no answer. And he starved himself for forty days and nights and even took little pinches of mescaline to open the doors of perception but still he did not get the answer he desired.
    So he decided to go on his way and walk from the top of the world to the bottom of the world in order to see could he meet anyone who might answer his question.
    And on his way he met an important rich man with money-bags under his eyes and with golden threads through his hair. And he asked of him gently and with proper manners, “Kind sir”, he said, “you are a man of the world. You go here, there, and everywhere. You breakfast in London and dine in Montevideo. You have enough money to break the bank at Monte Carlo or to play footsie with the stock exchange. Would you mind telling me, please, what this is all about, what is the meaning of life?”
    And he looked into the eyes of the rich man and he saw the money dancing in them.
    And the rich man said to him as he might say to his underlings: “Sorry boy. Go away. I am too busy. I have to buy another bank. And anyway, it's a stupid question.”
    And when he left the place he heard the rich man laugh, and his laugh shook the ground beneath his feet.
    And after that he went to the palace of the King. The King was within perusing a map under eyebrows that looked like moving forests. His fingernails curled like dragons on his abacus as he counted his soldiers. And as he perused with pleasure his forehead took on the contours of an unconquered country and his teeth glistened like burnished shields.
    And the man asked him with suitable obsequiousness but in all honesty, “Your most worthy and inestimable excellency,” he said, “you are the ruler of many kingdoms. You say to men come and they come, and go to war and they go to war. There is nobody but that does not bow down before your might and majesty and do your bidding. Please, please tell me, what this is all about, what is the meaning of life?”
    And he looked into the depths of the eyes of the king and he saw power dancing within.
    And the King said to him with suitable royal impatience: “Begone from here, you fool, before I chop off your head. Don't you see that I am too busy erecting monuments and defeating knavish enemies? And anyway, it is a stupid question.”
    And when he left that place he could hear the King and his courtiers laughing and their laughs echoed like trampling hooves on the flagstones of the road.
    And after that he went to the Temple. The Chief Priest was within praying on his bended knees. And the man spoke to him and said: “Your most benign grace and utmost holiness,” he said, “you have read all the books of theology and the scrolls of scripture. You know the lives of the saints and the prognostications of the prophets. You offer sacrifices and make obeisances daily. You fast and abstain. You keep the ten commandments and possess the seven gifts of the holy ghost and practise the cardinal virtues. Can you please, please, tell me what this is all about, what is the meaning of life?”
    And he peered down deeply into the eyes of the Chief Priest and he saw sanctity and holiness dancing madly in them.
    And the Chief Priest said to him with authority: “Depart from me before I set the faithful upon you. Dost thou not see that I am too busy adoring God? I have to make reparations for the sins of the world. And anyway, it is a stupid question.”
    And when he left that place with a troubled heart he heard the Chief Priest laughing, and his laugh drew echoes down from the speedwell blue of the sky.
    And outside of the Temple he saw a small boy begging.
    “Help me,” said the boy, “I have had nothing to drink for three days and I am dying of thirst.”
    And when the man saw the wretchedness of the boy he cried bitterly. And he filled a cup with his tears and he gave it to the boy and the boy drank it and was grateful.
    And now I ask you, which of these people did most good, the men who laughed, or the man who cried?

Translated by the author

From Four Front by Micheál Ó Conghaile, Pádraic Breathnach, Dara Ó Conaola and Alan Titley
Published by Cló Iar-Chonnachta

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