Three Fables

1 The Tiny Bones She wrote the perfect sentence. It was not crafted; it tumbled freely from the heavens, straight into her head. She didn't do anything. She just sat. And there it was, then, fully formed. She was not to blame.

She always wondered what it would feel like, to write the perfect sentence. Now she knew. She always wondered what it would sound like. Like Hendrix on a hot summer night, or Johann Sebastian Bach on a churchly morning? It did.

When she took it in her mouth, it tasted like oysters. Raw and with a hint of sex. Otherworldly. A bit forbidden. It had adverbs galore. It felt like her own tongue. It slid down her throat like a glob of snot.

Why me?, she asked. The angel on her shoulder stirred. Duh! he said. Who else? And she agreed.

It stared her down, the perfect sentence. Irreparably beautiful. The bleached skull of a baby bird, its tiny bones meticulously fused. There was no flicker in its eyes. Only a stare.

Explain it to us, her friends demanded. Is it like dancing naked in the rain? It is not, she answered. At least not the kind of rain they have around here. At least not this kind of naked.

I could show it to you, she offered. But it would make you sad. Immeasurably sad. It's just a sentence long, and then it's over. It's like once having known the perfect lover, and now he's gone. Better not to have loved.

Is that how you feel?, they asked. You wrote the perfect sentence, and now you're sad beyond compare?

Don't talk rubbish, she answered. It's different for me. Remember? I WROTE the perfect sentence!

Yes, her friends said. Yes we know.

La-di-friggin-da.

2 There Once Was a Man Who Got Stung by a Wasp There once was a man who got stung by a wasp. So he threw a stick of dynamite into his neighbor's beehive.

The man liked honey. So he sat himself down on a lawn chair, waiting for the gooey goodness to be thrown over the garden wall. Gooey it was, but it was also bright red, and it tasted metallic.

So the man sent his sons over the wall. The few surviving bees attacked the boys and stung them where they could, and then the bees died of their wounds.

The man's little nephew came by with a picture book, to show the man the difference between honeybees and wasps. His uncle punched him in the face, and flushed the book down the toilet.

A neighborhood kid rode by on his bicycle. He laughed at the red bumps on the sons' arms. The man locked him up in the garden shed. That little shit knew more about beekeeping than he let on. The man shoved the garden hose down the child's throat and kept pumping until the lad collapsed and died.

Then the man pointed the hose at himself. See, a little water never hurt anybody! Squeaky clean. There. Better. End of story.

3 Awake The room is dark. She dreams up sentences. Like: This planet is a hoot and a half, mister. Or: I like your ham-fisted approach to democracy. It kills time before they switch on the flashlight. There it goes. She braces herself. Many a thing with feathers has been shot out of the sky, to be roasted on a spit.

Her strategy is simple. She will tell them the funniest joke in the world. They will die laughing. Ha, they say. Ha-ha. Do you really think that love will save the world? And do feel free to answer in iambic pentameter. We have this harmless poetry habit.

The light plays up and down her belly. I will name him Awake.

Ah, but, the choir replies. Feel free to try. We'll still wreck him. With fear. With politics. He will believe in an afterlife. He will not be a heathen. He will share our values. His soul belongs to us. Excuse me, she says. With due respect. I do not believe in soul. I believe in mind, shaped by its travels through the world. No soul to be created and then stay at rest. My son will not be. He will become. They snort. We do not need your kind here. Go away.

May we all, she says, know happiness and where it comes from. May we all be free of suffering and where it comes from. May we never be separated from joy unto others. May we live with poise, free of bias, thirst and anger.

For heaven's sake, they say, for crying out loud. That can never be. Grow up!

He will, she said. His name will be Awake.

The thing with feathers: shot out of the sky. To land on its feet. To spread its wings. To rustle, to wrestle, to roost and coo; the sweetest song in the gale.

Awake.

Copyright Paul Verhaeghen. Translation copyright Paul Verhaeghen. By arrangement with the author. All rights reserved.