I really have to be moving on—
No, no—no, you got to hear it to the end! How do you know that the last free lie you’ve been given isn’t the very next? How do you know you won’t be pulling the switch on your own old sparky you’ve stupidly strapped yourself into wet sponge slit trouser leg shaved head and all—how do you know don’t reach to feel your head—you are strapped in and only free to utter your last allotted lie, which may; pull the switch; drop the cyanide eggs into the acid; pull the seven triggers simultaneously of the seven-fold firing squad’s seven high powered rifles each aimed precisely at your heart; or yank the lever dropping the trap door of the hanging gallows, making sure first that the rock-hard noose knot is positioned as it should be under your pearly left ear, but, yes. but, no, your true end will not be anyplace near as dramatic; you will simply tell your last allowable lie, which will click the switch to set a fast heart-stopper to quietly and painlessly still your heart in the middle of whatever dopey dream you’ll randomly have begun enjoying tonight after twelve? Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor, born, but cannot travel foreseeable future pain stop, so; knowing this, are you still going to wallow in the mire, and bellow you can’t even try to figure the answer at all, oh, or are you going to successfully knuckle down and nail the value of this expression—the quantity seven plus thirteen, times the quantity twenty-six minus sixteen, equals what? Felinine then slowly degrades into the volatile MMB. Judith van Dorth, Dutch Orangist, born this year, also, so; what, Mousie? Felinine then slowly degrades into the volatile MMB? Hah! Wrong answer! What? MMB! Get it? Get it? Who doesn’t understand MMB?
I—I just can’t get it. I—
Nonsense, try harder. This will just take a minute. Nobody on earth doesn’t have a minute. Listen; It was a dark and stormy night it was a bright and quite calm night—and so forth and so on. Okay, there it is. Do you get it?
I am sorry Doctor Sax—I really am trying.
Don’t lie—you’re not trying at all. Why are you shaking? Gone stupid, have you? Here; calculate the value of this expression—the quantity seven plus thirteen, times the quantity twenty-six minus sixteen, equals, what? To wit; the MMB precursor felinine is synthesized in the urine from three-methylbutanol-cysteinylglycine (three-MBCG) by the excreted peptidase cauxin. Ok? So why are you crying? Tears are for losers Mousie. Calculate, calculate, calculate already—the dozen witnesses are watching you strapped to this gurney in this very death chamber from behind that outsized window to see if you will end up pumping poison into your veins and gasp choke and gurgle your soul out and up and away, or if the needle’s primed with simple harmless saline, for which you will be unstrapped and told to arise and be awarded the prize of being allowed to continue with your life! Unlike John Dalrymple, second Earl of Stair, Scottish soldier and diplomat, who was cut down by God almighty this very year!
—now paying debt down fast pain stop—
What do you think. Eh?
I don’t get it.
See? You are really saying you won’t really try. That is how important your answer to this problem is. So here—for the last time; calculate the value of this expression—the quantity seven plus thirteen, times the quantity twenty-six minus sixteen, equals what? Here’s a hint—it is in three-quarter time. Spit the answer!
I—I can’t, Doctor Sax. I can’t—oh my God, I don’t know why father makes me come here it’s no use I’ll never be good at this, I got to go—I do.
No, stop. Wait. One last thing.
Why do you believe that, Mousie? That is, again, something in you lying to you. Force it down, is what you have to do. Force it down and don’t listen, it will melt in time. Everything ignored melts to totally gone in time.
That might be true for other kids but not for me.
—threw in sons tutoring pain stop—
Here’s more—there. How about now?
Sorry I still don’t get it.
Why not? You’re just striving to be fucking cute. You think you are so special and different from other kids your age. What make you so special that you have the gift of not ever being able to learn this? When everybody else your age has no problem?
Gift? Who’s talking about a gift? I’m not in the mood for a joke. Or to be made fun of.
The gift you have been blessed with of never having to deal with math. Math is really—quite a drag. Do you think it is a drag Mousie?
Yes, I do.
Do you think even more strongly that it is useless and stupid to learn? How is it stupid to learn about how rats and mice are highly averse to the odor of a cat’s urine, but after infection with the parasite toxoplasma gondii, they are attracted by it, highly increasing the likelihood of being preyed upon and of infecting the cat. How about now? You get it now? No? Or yes?
Do you think the school is stupid for making you learn it? You don’t care about the cruel trap that nature has unleashed upon the earth’s innocent rats and mice? No doubt you also do not care that Luc de Clapiers, marquis de Vauvenargues, French writer, died at the too-early infantile age of only thirty-two?
How about your father? He stupid too? He hate small animals too?
How about me? Am I stupid for teaching it? And for caring about small animals too?
Have I wasted my time by studying it and getting good enough to be able to teach it?
I don’t believe you are good at it. Now?
—three hundred per pain stop—
What? Why? A rapid melodic line written predominantly in sixteenth notes is accompanied by another melody with longer note values, which features very wide leaps!
No! You haven’t done any math since I’ve been coming here. You just give me problems to do. You don’t have to know math to give people problems to solve.
What? Why should I prove to you I know it? You’re the one who needs to pass tests. What I know or don’t know is not pertinent. I don’t have to pass any tests. When I did, I was good enough to pass. Hey, listen. I’m seeing you’re a punk wiseass. Do you know who the hell I am?
Stop right there—ok. It is wonderful. Is that what you want to hear?
What I fucking said. Plus, you probably couldn’t solve a single one of the problems you give me. Why should you teach me, sure why should you be the big know-it-all cheese and have your dick get all hard by raking my brain over the damned coals every time I come here?
Mousie, I did not hear that. If I did I would have to throw you out. And I do not want to do that to your father. He is counting on me. He does care about cats and dogs and swallows and about things like the fact that Andrei Osterman, Russian statesman, passed over when only sixty-one.
Hah—my father. He can’t play the sax worth a shit yet. He’s been paying you through the sphincter for over a year not and still can’t carry a tune. I don’t think you know anything about sax either. As shitty as he will end up being on sax, is how shitty I will remain with math.
Are you happy now are you?
Are you happy now huh?
My God, you—if your father could hear you, Mousie—I am absolutely shocked. Let’s stop this—
—cash good pain stop—
No no, you said to tell you so here it is; did he tell you he yells at me all the time that I got a demon inside that’s making me be lousy at everything?
Yeah, Demon. Did he tell you about that?
No. I know your father. I cannot see him saying that. He may say things like, Let me hear the first four bars of Variation five, but never that.
But, he does. When he comes here he kisses your ass and acts all proper. He’s a different man at home. He’s like a fucking dictator! My mom won’t even stay in the same room with him when it comes over him—
—cash fast pain stop—
Wait, stop. When what comes over him?
Uh, like, like—how Cadière confessed she had first seen Girard surrounded by an aura, while a voice from up down or nowhere proclaimed, Ecce homo—behold the man!
Wait, wait—I won’t let you change the subject. You said something comes over him. What comes over him?
The—the spell. Some kind of spell. Like—like the Italian type of hand-crossing, such as is frequently found in the sonatas of Scarlatti, with one hand constantly moving back and forth between high and low registers while the other hand stays in the middle of the keyboard, playing the fast passages. Just like that!
Yes! Yes. It is—way too much.
Spent from this verbalimente mouth-spew, Mousie gazed out quite past the middle distance where all the yesterdays with his father marched in quick-step parade; Mousie, I shout and shout louder like I do, only because you will not listen! Your demons are telling you that you’re not good enough to know math! Turn around and face them! Show them you will do it! Show them you’re not the worthless piece of shit they’ve made you believe you must be! Can you see them Mousie? I can see them! Turn around and try to see them! They don’t want you to see them but fight back and see them anyway—they are right behind you turn the hell around the fuck around the dog shit pile in your brain you must shake up get moving and cause it to dissolve! You can do it, you’re lying that you can’t, yes, the same way you learned everything you have so far, this is just the next thing to learn because everything you learn and put being unable to do it behind you opens a door to the next thing to learn and so forth and so on, huh!
—will message when ready pain stop—
Think of what you’ve learned already and think of all you’ve left to learn. Know that you and I and everyone are like plants that grow and grow and grow when nutrition continues to be provided. Nutrition for us is being faced with an unbroken series of new things to learn. Nutrition being withheld from plants causes slow lingering death. Getting tired or lazy or stupid or senile and this being unable to learn the next thing cuts off our primary mental nutrition and causes slow lingering death, amen! Your excuse of simply not having talent for math is hollow because a lie or not, a mental disease or not, or something as plain as simple laziness all lead the same way; to mental death with infinite variations, performed by Kimiko Douglass-Ishizakaon, piano. This atonal interruption of the learning chain—the derailment causing the next thing after the problem thing in this case math, being unable to get past, kills off the necessary mental nutrition burns out the grass stunts and dooms the lawn hollows out and rots the surely to become shortly dead tree, you cannot let it happen—keep on thinking and thinking round and round in your head about what they’re yelling from way back down under the backside of your brainstem and you’ll just think and think all the time like you do—you believe the lie in you that tells you that you can’t do nothing—stop looking down in your head look up and out your eyes and listen to me; look at me I’m learning sax—at my age I can take up the sax! If I can take a stab at learning sax at my age there no reason you can’t learn math, too! Like I was going to say—yeah it would probably help you if we go over all the stuff you’ve learned so far—how about it Mousie? Okay, let’s. Here’s one—you learned to use the toilet, how about that? That’s not easy to learn and there you went and learnt it. Each stinking full diaper meant nothing, we simply threw each one away and forgot it and tried and tried again! That there are once-steaming mounds of fecal filth in the landfill means nothing. Okay? Here’s another—you learned to tie your shoes, how about that? Hundreds and hundreds of fumbles and fails did not cause us to throw up our hands and cry, From now on only slip-ons for you! We tried on and on, and one day—you did it! Okay! Here’s another—you learned to tell time! You kept staring and thinking and guessing and staring it did not cause us to throw up our hands and cry, From now on only digital readouts for you! We tried on and on, and one day—you did it! Okay? Here’s another—you learned to read! You scanned the scribbly meaningless marks on the page from left to right and right to left and up and down and down and up until finally the marks burst open like the tips of bathroom caulk tubes and the words squeezed out and made perfect sense! At no point did we throw up our hands and cry, From now on only audiobooks for you! In addition:
—to come over pain stop—
You went on to ride a bike.
Thirty-eight Bach flower remedies.
I know father I know I know but—
You went on to drive a car.
I know father I know I know but—
No! And on and on up and down back and forth each repeated section of each new thing you learned having alternate endings for the first or second time until, on the third or fourth or later, later later, hold your breath and shut your eyes, yes you finally and explosively came!
My God Mousie!
Yes you came!
Dear God, yelled Doctor Sax—are you all right, Mousie? Wake up, come on—get up for Christ’s sake get up right now! My oh my!
—yours truly Meanselle Sax—
Where are you going son?
Are you happy now?
Jim Meirose's work has appeared in numerous venues, including Le Scat Noir, Offbeat/Quirky (Journal of Exp. Fiction pub,), Permafrost, North Atlantic Review, Witness, and Kairos Literary Magazine. Learn more about him at www.jimmeirose.com