Flow with the Water

Flow with the water
Everyone’s stream is different
Rain clouds approach

Közeleg az eső
S megissza a mező
Körforgás, szerető

Aus Erde geschaffen
In einer Wolke
Die Inti in Kreisen folgte

Pes pestro preskočil prúd
Vietor veje
Zemeguľa žije

La tormenta vinió
Ya llegó la lluvia
El pequeño río tiene sed

Photograph courtesy of author.

Little Timmy

Eugenia Loli 3

The stain is slowly regaining moisture. Some of the dry patches are starting to fill back in as the cream, returning heat to the sun, settles onto the concrete. The first hints of pink start appearing, and as the puddle starts decreasing in area, there is finally a little growth in height. It seems as if the center was sucking at the edges, pulling in the borders towards itself, so the pink blob could finally emerge.

A crow lands, tail first, and vomits up some strawberry ice cream. It puts it back with its beak, carefully filling a hole in the little scoop. It repeats it three more times, making sure not to forget a quarter of a strawberry on the top. It flaps its wings, as if breaking a fall, and zooms away again.

As the sun gets stronger, the puddle shrinks faster and the scoop rises. A cat, led by its tail, approaches the pink mound and licks a few more layers back on top. The small bell on its collar, engraved ‘Snowball’, jingles as the cat spreads the pink smidgen on its pink nose. The cat looks at the mound longingly as it backs away.

A dog, dragging his owner back by the leash, carries a brown little cone. It separates the mass into two more or less spherical blobs and leaves the little hat on top, before retreating as his owner pulls him away.

There is slowly more and more chatter and an ambulance parks next to the cone, shading it and slowing down the melting process. People are congregating around a nearby location. A black shoe comes down next to the ice cream, toes first, then rolls down to the heels, lifting them up and quickly jerking straight above the glob of pink. The murmur of voices is interjected by random screams while people run away backward, as if in gym class.

The ambulance leaves, as does the crowd, until a single scream pierces the silence.

A bus whirls by and the cone leaps into the air, spinning wildly until it is caught by a little boy, standing in the headlights.

Why did little Timmy drop his ice cream?

 

 

Artwork by Eugenia Loli

Californian Encounter

IMG_2377

Sept 10, 6:25 AM

I had just sat down on the metro when I got a whiff of the biting smell of urine.
“Where are you going?”
I looked up and saw what many people in America would point to when asked to show the problem with the country. The man in front of me was black, homeless, and quite deranged. He carried three plastic bags of belongings. One contained just empty plastic bottles.

“Where are you going?” he asked again.
“Union Station,” I said. “To catch the bus to San Francisco.” I’ve had idle chit-chat with the homeless of LA before, and it was always a much more pleasant affair than expected, so I never really felt the need to lie to them out of some ploy to protect myself.

“Can I come?” he followed up. It didn’t seem like he was joking.
“I, uh. I don’t know. Do you have a ticket?” I laughed. I tried to make him laugh it off too.
“No. Can you buy me a ticket?”
“I don’t think so sir. I, don’t think I can do that.”

I was used to the chit-chat of those who knew what reasonable requests were, and what a person not wanting to be bothered looked like.
“Please.” He bent down, and as he his face came to about twelve centimeters from mine, spittles hit my face. I was surprised at how calm I was. “Can you help me?”
“Umm. I don’t think so sir.”
“Please.”

He started holding onto my shoulder with some force. My shoulder tensed up. “You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him.” He was quoting at me, but there was more accusation in his eyes than begging. I got up and went to a seat one cart over. He followed along. “Because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake.”
A tall, bald white guy with glasses looked like he was trying to alert some people – was there train security?

“I’m sorry sir, but I don’t think I can help you in any way.” I really didn’t. “I’m just travelling here.”
“I’m just travelling too.”
“I’m sorry, sir.” We finally arrived at Union Station.

“God bless you!” I called out to him. I don’t know why, but religious wishes of goodwill were the only helpful thing I had to offer.
As we walked off the train, the angry bald guy went up to a police officer.
“That guy was harassing this guy.” He pointed at me. I stopped. Talking to an officer would hopefully discourage him from thinking about following me.
“Which one?”
This,” he pointed, “fucking, black guy.” He was heading for escalator.
The officer turned to me and asked what he did.
“Just asking for money I guess.”
“Would you like us to do anything about it?”
I remembered the spittle on my face and wiped it off with my shirt.
“No, I don’t think so.”

Standing at the top of the escalator, he was looking away. I wondered what all those plastic bottles were worth when returned, or if there was a system for it.
I exhaled for a good fifteen seconds when he didn’t follow me out of the station.

Sept 10, 4:30 PM

“Are you afraid of black guys?” came a voice from behind me.
I remembered that morning and thought ‘Sometimes, I guess.’
I turned around and saw a guy in his forties or fifties approaching me with a smile.
“I…” Was this a bad way to say this? “I don’t think so.”

When he arrived, he let his shoulders drop as he exhaled. His lower lip came up in the way it does before one has to share bad news. He seemed tired of having to do this. But also like it had been rehearsed.
“Look, life is hard out here for us sinners. I just woke up. My wife and I we just woke up in the tent, and we are hungry. I don’t want to buy drugs or alcohol, I’m just hungry. My wife is hungry.”

I believed him. Although I knew he could easily be lying. I didn’t particularly mind if he was.
“Yeah, I’m actually not from around here.” What a pivot.
“Where are you from?”
“From Slovakia. Bratislava. It’s in Central Europe.” Silence. “Anyway, you know, it’s my first time on the West Coast. And the, you know, the homelessness is crazy out here.”
“Exactly. This is the richest country in the world, and look how they treat their homeless.”
“Yeah, it’s crazy.”

I realised most people would have cut off this conversation a long time ago. I would have probably waved him away back home without a second thought. I was looking for interesting free things to do in California, much like the homeless. We coincided a lot.

“Back home I’ve never seen anything like this. Tents on city streets, you know?”
“Yes exactly, and you know. My wife and I are hungry. We just woke up.” I already started reaching for my wallet. I felt pretty good about being so generous that I was going to give him five dollars. “And I need nine dollars, thirty cents.”
“How much?” Oh no, if I only gave him 5 now, I would not feel the happiest. For just 4.30 more I could real good about myself.
“I need nine dollars, thirty cents for two soups and a box of tampons.” A caring husband. I would feel so good about myself.
“A ten dollar bill would be perfect.” I felt like when my mother told me to do the dishes, as I was on my way to do just that. I was going to do that anyway.

We introduced ourselves. I forgot his name as soon as we said ‘God Bless!’.

Agatha

Once upon a time, in a little village, in a little country, on this little planet we call Earth, there was a little girl. Her name was Agatha, which meant good and kind, because that was what her parents wanted her to be above all. And indeed, Agatha was a good, kind little girl, which is why she cried and cried when she heard her mommy saying “Looks like the tree might die from the heat. Can you believe that it never even occurred to Roger that maybe he should water the plants with this kind of weather? I swear they are just looking for a mother to take care of them…” Agatha neither remembered, nor understood everything mommy said on the phone, but that was the direct quote she overheard, full disclosure.

Uncle Tree had been Agatha’s friend. He held her swingset, and shaded her from the sun while she napped. He listened to her secrets, and his big friendly face always cheered her up. In response to the news that something bad could happen to her friend, Agatha ran outside to cry by the tree, so that her tears could save Uncle Tree.

When Agatha went to bed that night, she prayed and prayed that the tree be saved. She did not know much about praying, or how it worked, since her parents only laughed at people who went to church. Jenny at kindergarten jusy told her that praying loudly worked best when it came to wanting presents.

Agatha didn’t know if saving Uncle Tree counted as a present or not, but she didn’t want her parents to hear her praying. She just clutched her hands extra tight. She prayed for rain, a flood, garden gnomes, whatever would save Uncle Tree. Her hands were still clasped when she woke up that morning.

As she opened her eyes, she could hear a soft pitter-patter. Her room was darker than she was used to, and outside the window everything was gray. It was raining. Her prayers had been answered. Agatha jumped out of bed and ran downstairs. She went straight to the cupboard with her dark blue rain boots and rubber-ducky-yellow raincoat.

She stopped by the kitchen, where the mother couldn’t stop smiling as her daughter explained about her tree friend, fairies, and the Incas. The extent of her daughter’s fantasies never failed to amaze her, nor did her ever-expanding horizon of knowledge. Where could she have heard about Incas?

Blue bucket and shovel in hand, the color coordinated toddler braved the muddy outside as if possessed. Carefully laying the shovel down on a flat rock, she started excavating mud into the bucket with her bare hands. Her mother would later have something to say about all the first getting under her fingernails. The earthworms she encountered, she placed on one of Uncle Tree’s broad, fallen leaves. Bucket by bucket, a little mound started to rise at the foot of Uncle Tree. She smoothed the edges and placed the shovel’s stone at the top. From the right angle, it looked like a spitting image of Pachacuti’s sacrificial table.

Agatha took the leaf and placed it onto the stone. She picked up the shovel, and whispered to it: “A sacrifice for the Rain God.” With that, the shovel fell onto the worms, doubling their number and halving their fun.

“Agatha, honey, what are you doing?” her mother yelled from the kitchen window.

“Just playing, mommy!”

 

Image by Áron Braunsteiner

 

Now Where Did I Put…?

A 50 year old man was pacing through his 2 bedroom apartment. His thick framed, rectangular glasses and stooping posture would have made you guess 80. He was a Assistant Professor for the Philosophy department at his university and had stayed up all night writing a test, because, although he finished his PhD 15 years ago, he still couldn’t shake his work ethic from freshman year. He was a night-before, all-nighter kind of guy and this was the first final of his first semester of being a Professor. A real professor. Not some goddamn post-doc or professorial assistant, which is a real kick in the balls for a title by the way, mostly employed by the arrogant, God-complex-having 32 year old professors who luck out in the genetic lottery and love to lord over the losers older than them. His bitterness was something he tried to work on with his therapist.
The Professor was nervous because of the exam, and it didn’t help that he hadn’t been able to find his keys since yesterday. He could clearly remember closing the door, and putting them down… somewhere. But where exactly mystified him. Halfway through his third episode of The Sopranos, he remembered that he couldn’t remember where he put his keys.
The usual suspect locations were checked first. Not in the lock, the table, his pants, the bathroom or the fridge (he often went straight from the door to the cheese). He couldn’t look for his keys too long though, as it was mighty high time to start that exam. He finished the episode, and two others while writing. He was afraid the red headed idiot from the third row would complain because no mob based questions had been on the practice test.
After an hour and a half of sleep, he got up, shit-shower-shaved, and was on his way out the door when he realised he had no keys.
Lock, table, pants, bathroom, fridge: nothing. Lock, table, couch, bed, couch-creases, bathroom, toilet, bin, drawers, laundry basket, fridge: nothing. He thought about how good it would be if he could ring his keys from his phone, which lead him to checking his pant pocket. He found the phone in the fridge and cut himself a slice of cheese.
The Professor opened his meditation app, played the Soothing Whalesong background track, and took three deep breaths. Two beads of sweat raced across his forehead, down the slope of his nose, and fell on his chest, where the shirt was already damp.
He took another two deep breaths and wiped himself off with a kitchen cloth. He checked the microwave.
One last deep breath. His eyes opened as the sound of air being expelled through the blowhole interrupted the otherwise peaceful song of a humpback.
Fridge, cutlery drawer, the box of a juicer he used once the day it arrived, bin, laundry basket, pockets, pockets of yesterday’s pants, the floor in all rooms, table, under the table – at the sound of the bell ringing, he jerked his head up and smacked it against the table.
“A kurva anyját!” he yelled.
He shuffled out from underneath the table and scurried to the door.
“I’m sorry, I can’t open the door, I can’t find my keys,” he yelled at the door, his left hand pointlessly projecting the sound from his mouth over the one meter distance.
The door opened, and his neighbour’s twelve year old daughter handed him his keys.
“I think you forgot your keys outside, mister.”
He cried as he rode his electric scooter to the wrong building.

 

Artwork by Marcel Duchamp “The Fountain”

Antagonism

Fables are told using anthropomorphized animals to teach us humans a lesson. Animals, imbued with Man’s traits, are supposed to make our character defects a little more easy to swallow. “I’m not lazy, the damn grasshoppers are.” Of course, we know that Man is an animal the same as all the others, and so this distinction is quite meaningless. Perhaps all stories are fables then, or fables are a superfluous genre name. I already see the headlines: Why calling a story a “fable” is  human centric hate-speech towards animals. Thank you HuffPo for your service.

Anyway, all of this is to say, that the following is a fable, despite featuring Man amongst its major characters.

Anna was living alone in a very old house, which she had inherited from her parents. Her parents had died a year ago, on a ship in a big storm. It was the sort of non-traumatic death from a fairy tale, where actually dealing with family dynamics is not part of the scope of the story, and neither is dealing with loss or grief. The author summons up a quick storm, parents are gone so our hero can take on the world all by herself. Perhaps she spends a weekend being sad offscreen, but that’s it.  

So Anna was living in an old house. And in this old house there had been a problem for one hundred years. Every spring, when the weather got warm a band of ants absconded from the nearby anthill to try their luck in the outside world during swarming season. And each year, a small group of these antventurers found their way into the bathroom of this old house. Anna’s parents, by now tragically dead, were always very good sports about it. Don’t expect that they didn’t kill any ants; of course they inflicted terrifying horrors on the intruders. Enormous hands came down to flatten tens of the ants at once. Water from the showerhead washed the survivors off the walls of the tub. Once they were down the drain there was no distinction between the living and the dead. As index fingers descended onto them, breaking the feeble defenses of their exoskeletons, they were crushed between finger and porcelain to release the chemical scent signal for grave danger and death. Their olfactory screams of despair didn’t register with the humans.

But they didn’t kill all of them. About half of this group of stragglers were left alive, stunted by the PTSD from witnessing their brothers and sisters destroyed by gods.

Probably the only people who followed Article 23 of the 1899 Hague Convention, Anna’s forebears stuck to conventional weapons. They preferred to destroy part of the invading forces, and leave others alive to deliver the message. Anna’s parents liked to call it just a gentle caution: don’t come into the bathroom, you formic shits.

However, this year was different for two reasons. First of all there was Anna, who had none of the patience of her parents. Even as a child she was always felt big and powerful when she got to stomp around on them. But there were also the ants. There would be groups back at the colony who would not heed the advice of the delusional survivors . “Pfft, sure, a god crushed Roger, you all just went too hard on the sugar stores in the kitchen, you damn junkies”.  And these came to face their own doom. The procedure of antnihilation would have to be repeated multiple times.

Anna had no patience for any of that. She would not hesitate to use chemical weapons at the first sign of an intrusion.

There was also a much more sinister group. With survivors of the gentle reminders forming a larger part of the colony, there was growing hatred towards the house and its inhabitants. Historically it had been a  very small part of the population, so the queen could just ignore them, however, a younger queen in the colony realized that these grievances provided fertile soil for her political ambitions. Queens can live up to 30 years, so there is some real long term political shit going on in these colonies. In a textbook example of populist propaganda, the new queen was able to garner the support of enough of the anthill to overthrow the older queen.

Let us call them Antgela and Antdolf. So Antgela is sitting there, queen of the colony, but Antdolf sees her opportunity. Her campaign not only helps a disenfranchised group, but also names an enemy outside responsible for it. She probably also picks a group of ants with weird headwear to be deemed enemies. If they get rid of them, their part of the population grows as a percentage. Plus they show some muscle. So something something politics, they gain power and Antdolf is in control of the colony.

To be able to fight against both of these threats, heavy investments in military technologies were made. The best sciantists copied bullet ant genetics so their toughest soldiers would more powerful bites; a powerful mutation that enlarged their mandibles to the extent that they could no longer speak. These mutant mute ants were the feared and loathed right hand of Antdolf, and they took spook to a whole new level.

One team also cooked up some ant-meth to get the boys all riled up.

The militarist ambitions of these ants were supported by some extremely talented, but also pretty fucked up academics. C’est la vie.

You can talk about whether the initial grievances towards Man were justified or not, but the fact they seized upon them to orchestrate a populist uprising and the take-over of the anty fascists is the key here.

So we have formic fascists and a genocidal gal. Both are pretty shitty, so I understand if you have trouble picking a team to root for here. It is what it is.

A mild drizzle fell on that fateful June evening, when Anna and the ants met in the bathroom.

Anna had been in town, having dinner with a few friends, so she got home around 10 PM. The rain, though it was light, managed to soak her as she walked home. She was so cold, she was just looking forward to get in the tub and have her so called “ol’ soak”.

However, when she got home and opened the bathroom door, she was faced with a veritable military formation. Rank, file, commander, lieutenant, you name it. Anna dropped her bag and ran off. Antdolf laughed at the meekness of their antversary. Subdued so soon?

But Anna wasn’t running away. Far from it. Her aunt had warned her about the ants earlier in the year. Not to forget to expect them inside as it got warmer out.

In preparation, Anna had gone shopping. A couple of times.

First she bought a little trap, to put right in the spot the ants usually appeared.

This little glue trap was followed by the purchase of a dozen different sprays, glue strips, automatic sprayers that could sense ant movement from tremors. Finally, her most prized possession was an unassuming little trap that, when walked through, would load up each ant with a freaky fungal timebomb. Each ant that entered the trap got ten tenants – fungal spores that would poison the worker and make her an unwitting suicide bomber.  After a while, the spores would produce gasses in the ant as they multiplied on the inside, and the ant would blow up and disperse thousands of spores in every direction.

Of course there is no targeting with a weapon like this. The barracks and the ant family sitting by the TV get hit just the same.

Dad fiddling with the antenna to watch the world cup game, mom cooking dinner, pretty beat up about nobody remembering her birthday, and the kids watching reruns of Frants. They hear a pop off in the distance, a couple spores come in under the door, and an hour later they go out with a bang of their own.

The spores explode, infect, explode, infect, explode, infect until they wipe out the entire colony.

Yes. Anna was prepared. Chemical weapons conventions meant zilch, there was nothing even resembling moral responsibility towards the other side, and, to be fair, there wasn’t really any law controlling human-ant warfare.

Anna remembered how her parents felt bad for the ants, because of how powerless they were. Even if they tried to bite them, their bites were harmless. How could you want to kill something so powerless? Anna’s answer was: gleefully. She could have just shut the door. She could easily have justified the use of weapons of mass destruction, been morose about the necessity for such destruction, but defended it nonetheless. Instead, she chose to be an active part of this momentous murder.

Anna appeared at the door decked out in a  t-shirt and her slippers, she had 6 cans of ant spray in two fanny-packs on her sides. It was her personal hollywood movie fantasy: killing the hell out of some ants. She wanted to feel invincible. A giant who flicks the futilely fighting formics off with ease, their bites meaningless to her thick skin. She was ready for a bloody battle.

She stepped into the room and closed the door behind her. No survivors. Under her feet, soldiers of battalion 22 remained still. They remained still even as the comrade to their left was crushed to death.

Her lack of respect, clear from her lack of armor, angered Antdolf. She gave her three seconds of realisation. Three seconds to realise that not one of the ants broke file. Antdolf wanted to see fear.

Anna un-holstered two spray cans. Antdolf raised her arm, and the army prepared in anticipation of the signal. There was almost breeze blowing through the army. As the air passed the ants it entered into their spiracles – the angle just right to create a little tone as if on a flute. A giant organ, Anna’s antagonist inhaled in A sharp. Tuned and ready to play its symphony of violence. Anna took a pretty run-of-the mill human breath.

Antdolf’s arm swooped down, giving the signal for attack. As the ants swarmed her, Anna was unfortunately targeting the battalion made up of the jewish ants who managed to blend in with her gas attack. Life really is unfair sometimes.

As the ants started scaling her legs, she was looking forward to sweeping them by the hundreds from her thighs into the bathtub, where she would would drown them. With the plug in, she would collect all the ants into the basin, so she could watch the drain eat them all at once.

That was when she felt the first bite. And it hurt a lot more than she expected. Looking down at her legs, she couldn’t see skin below her knees. Surprising. She could actually feel the ants weighing her down.

Directing her weapons towards her own legs she jumped, and as she landed with a thud, half of the ants fell to the floor. She continued to spray, but there were just too many of them. As they crept higher and higher, and bit more and more, her reaction to the bites also began to kick in. It felt like her skin was burning.

She threw down the cans, largely empty, and picked out a new one. She had prepared a little mechanism for this one. With the button locked down the can could propel gas continuously, no hands.

She started it, locked it and put it onto the floor in front of her. As the can kept spraying it started to rotate in place, creating a tornado of poison. With the two new cans, she sprayed all of herself to cool her skin and repel the enemy. Anna kept stomping, slowly creating an island of carcasses beneath her.

In seemingly unending numbers, the ants kept coming. A sea of the living washing at the shores of her island of lifeless husks.

Between the pain and poison of the ant bites and the fumes of her own sprays, Anna was entering delirium. She didn’t notice that the fluffy pink bathrobe, which she was putting on as an additional piece of armor, was lined with soldiers waiting in antbush. They all bit her at the same time, bringing her to her knees. In a final moment of desperation Anna remembered the one item hidden in the robe which might save her.

Seeing the broken woman in front them the ants decided to take pity and end it. A large wave started to rise from the corner of the room. Antdolf, riding the crest, was ready to deliver the final blow.

The last ace up her sleeve, Anna took out a lighter. As she lifted her head to look Antdolf in the eye she raised the lighter in front of the can’s nuzzle.  The tsunami that had formed atop the Antlantic ocean towered above her.

As the wave broke, a spark was lit. Thousands of ants went up in flames, burnt to a crisp.

The problem was that with closed doors and ten minutes of continuous spraying, the entire room was flammable. The aerosol filling the room, the coating on Anna’s skin, it all went up in flames. The entire room was engulfed in a fireball.

So what is the moral of the story you ask? They all died in a piece of senseless, fetishistic hyper violence, straight out of a Quantin Tarrantino movie. But for what? Anna and Antdolf are dead, as is the entire army of the Ant Reich. All things considered not a bad outcome. The ants left back at the colony, now freed from their tyrantical leader, are able to move on. Unfortunately a handful of survivors manage to carry the bomb back into the colony, so similarly to Anna and the army, this story ends explosively for the rest of the ants too.

The moral? Usually there is no good and evil. Hell, it’s not even about fighting for survival, this was a dick-measuring contest par excellence. So that is the moral, that we live in this kind of a world.

It’s okay, none of it matters anyway.

 

Artwork by Salvador Dali, “The Ants (Las Hormigas)”