Tuesday, October 20, 2009

the lesson

Two things I have done from two-story windows and both times these things were done at parties. The first thing is I peed on someones head from a second story window and the second is I fell out of a second story window. In the first instance I had to leave the party out the back door immediately. In the case of the fall, it was a Halloween costume party, and I was dressed as one of The Beatles. I was Ringo. Luckily I landed in some bushes, but it still knocked the wind out of me. I was ministered to by a bevy of lovely lasses. Actually, not.

What is with this phrase: "You learned your lesson." It is always spoken in a pejorative sense. People say it after you have inflicted some kind of misfortune on yourself. Misfortune is the lesson. The lesson is always that you can't do something. No one says: "Well son, you learned your lesson." if you have memorized all of the multiplication tables. They'd be well within their rights but they never would. A lesson is an instruction by which you gain some knowledge, but when someone whips out the "you learned your lesson" idiom you know that whatever the instruction was, it weren't no fun.

For a few months now I have been subscribing to the OED online and not really getting my money's worth. I didn't know the password for awhile. But today I am back in the hallowed virtual halls of the learned lexicon and I have poured over the entry for "lesson" and I am quite satisfied with myself. Not for having gained any forward knowledge or for having imparted some new information to you dear reader but just for the simple reason that I used my subscription!!! A lesson can also be a rebuke. A lesson can be a piece of scripture read to give moral compass to our actions. Above all a lesson is something to be studied on, to contemplate over, to assess with the compartments of the mind, that storming fatty honeycomb that rides behind our brow.

I never learned much from the scriptures. The "thous shalt nots" were more invitation to debauch than they were restrictive. The Church was an old noble ramshackled structure with many rooms and winding halls and sub basements. The deacons smoked cigarettes out the back door of the kitchen while the black ladies fried chicken and scooped heaping mounds of corn bread batter onto sheet pans. They were all good Baptists. On Sunday nights they came together and joined in hymn and celebration of the master, the celestial host of hosts. Crows rested on the church steeple, big black crows, big enough to carry a baby away in the clutches of their cobalt beaks. It was during Sunday service as I was playing hookey in the parking lot that I saw one of those crows snatch up a child and carry it away. It carried that child up into the clouds and then when it was done with its play, when it had grown bored with the manchild it had pinched, the crow released the baby and it fell from the sky.

I told the Pastor and the people what I had seen, but they didn't believe me. The deacons gathered around me and behind them the congregation stood. The child's broken body lay smashed and unmoving. The pastor pointed to a rock that he had seen me throw down as he approached. It was stained with sticky cherry colored blood. I described to them how I had wrestled with another crow that had lighted on the fallen body of the child and pecked at its eye and how I had grabbed up that rock and smashed the vermin crow with it and saved the child's other eye for verily indeed the terrible bird had succeeded in tearing out that one eye and swallowing it whole like a grape. But they told me there were no crows. No crows on the steeple. No crows anywhere. They told me what I had seen perched up there on the roof was demons, devils, hellions, the legion of God's enemies. I gnashed my teeth at the sun that day.

When they got me to the hospital they x-rayed my innards and sure enough there was an eyeball travelling down through the viaducts and tubes. When they tested the blood from the rock it was determined to be human and not of avian origin. I was a murderer, they said. No crow had stolen the child, the demons had tricked me. It was I who had lured the youngster away from the flock and in reward had bashed his brains out with a rock and gnawed his eyeball out of its socket and lunched on it. I was led to a cell.

The Pastor came to visit me. He sat across from me in my cell. He stared at me. I noticed the intensity of his stare, that his eyes had become sharp black beads. It was very quiet in the cell. As I sat there returning his stare not unfriendly I came to realize that he was a crow disguised as a Pastor. His breast was unusually plump and I caught a glimpse of the black mat of feather rustling beneath his vestments. It was so quiet. The Pastor's face began to crack. What seemed like the beginning of a smile became a jagged tear and the hard black bone of a beak crawled out. When the crow had torn his wings free of its human clothing, flesh and fabric, it sat solemnly facing me. It would tax me one of my eyeballs I was told and without further hesitation the bird pounced on me and latched onto my eyeball. We struggled, the bird and I. But just then a sheriff came into the cell to announce lunchtime and seeing the giant bird atop me pulled his revolver from its holster and fired a volley of shots at the beast. The crow toppled over me and to the floor dead with my severed eyeball gripped in its mouth. Half blind and in terrible pain I collapsed.

I was vindicated that day in the cell of child murder. It was never explained how I had managed to eat an eyeball but it was obvious that it had been the work of the devil. A gang of ruffians burned the church down saying that it was an outpost of Satan. Most of the deacons became avowed atheists. The Black ladies went on to open a successful southern themed restaurant called Miss Dilly's. And me? When I was released from the jail hospital some weeks of recuperation after the surgery that sewed shut my empty eye hole I was met by another angry mob like the one that had burned down the church. They lifted me up over their heads and carried me out to the highway on the limits of the city. I was forced to jump onto the back of the first truck that passed with a warning from the townfolk never to show my rotten face in that area again.

I went to live in what they came to call Crow Wood and from there many dark and strange things were said to take place so that no good christian ever ventured near.

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