Tuesday, 10 May 2011

With Gods On My Side

This month's assignment was to write precisely 500 words based on either the following photograph or alternatively on a quotation from a Jorge Luis Borges' short story, "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius."
The quotation is "Some limited and waning memory of Herbert Ashe, an engineer for the Southern Railway Line, still lingers in the hotel at Androgué, among the effusive honeysuckle vines and in the illusory depths of the mirrors."

For this story I chose the photograph rather than the quotation.

With Gods On My Side

So what happened to the old Norse gods? Whither the Greek and Roman pantheon, the myriad local pagan deities of wood and water, starlight and love, upon the terrible rise of monotheism?

As belief waned, so did their power, and yet the gods being immortal have not died, but simply faded.
Many, embittered, are reduced to hiding car keys or making underwear ride up. The more malevolent deities have naturally gravitated toward bureaucracy and government.
Yet not all have fallen so low, for as I have discovered there live still the gods of joyous Misrule.

Hearken, dear reader.
The twin naiads, Capucine and Clothilde, have in recent years chosen to dwell in the window of a bookshop on the Quai de Valmy in Paris, overlooking the canal that joins the Bassin de Vilette to the Seine.
Their self-assigned rôle is to pluck a single thought from the mind of each passer-by, simultaneously replacing it with one from another person. Whether gift or curse depends upon their whim, one twin being good, the other evil.

I discovered their existence quite by chance when one evening I found myself in sudden and unaccountable possession of a passable facility with conversational Turkish. Retracing my steps toward the point of this revelation I observed the following: as people walked past a certain window their expressions changed, some to delight, others consternation, but most to momentary bafflement before they walked on.
The window merely displayed a selection of volumes on twentieth century art. From a certain angle, however, and fleetingly as if viewed through a blind spot, an image appeared of two girls in sylvan parkland, elegantly attired, masked and beautiful.

I was still reeling from this apparent trick of the light when a woman passed the window and to my horror, the twin apparitions appeared to reach inside her head.
It was only for an instant. The woman paused momentarily, her expression one of confusion as if losing her thread of thought, before regaining her composure and walking on as if nothing had happened.

From my vantage point on the canal path I stood transfixed, observing a dozen passers-by endure the same strange ritual. At last I could withstand the mystery no longer and crossed the street, determined to pass the window myself, to pause at that very spot and divine the truth.

I have since passed that window at every conceivable opportunity.
Their strength returning with my growing belief, the goddesses have favoured me, ridding my mind of clutter and junk, of painful or unwanted memories and redistributing them among a baffled population, replacing them in return with snippets and snatches of other people’s minds; their experiences, abilities, memories and emotions, their most intimate delights and desires.

I hereby bequeath my soul to the goddesses Capucine and Clothilde in the hope that upon my death all that is me; every last scintilla of my conscious and unconscious mind will be gifted, thought by thought, to the collective consciousness of Paris.
Heaven indeed.

10 comments:

Vanda said...

I love it!
"Many, embittered, are reduced to hiding car keys or making underwear ride up."

That explains everything.

Capucine and Clothilde sound awesome. I'd be passing in front of that window back and forth. What does one do with conversation Turkish though?

dive said...

Thank you so much, Vanda. The praise of the praiseworthy is above rubies.

As for conversational Turkish, I suppose it might come in handy on holiday or in a Turkish restaurant. I wonder what happened to the person who lost that ability? If he were Turkish he'd be in real trouble.

MmeBenaut said...

Staggeringly beautiful. You are a genius my dearest Dive.

dive said...

Oh, Mme, you are too, too kind, as ever. Thank you for making me blush.

The actual window display is just where the story locates it and behind the woman's head the two girls' hands curl round to form twin "O"s. The inside of these "O"s is of clear glass and, like a pair of binoculars, allows a glimpse of the display inside.
Totally cool and so Parisian. I love it.

Kate said...

I LOVE this story! Let me guess, though: your Turkish is starting to slip?

dive said...

Thank you, Kate. Yes, my Turkish is absolutely awful. I need to get back to Paris and walk past the window so I can refresh it.

Liz Berry Wagner said...

I adore this! Paris is one of my all-time favorite spots in the world. I do believe I was French in some former life...In this life, however, I am a descendant of the Greeks (I bet they think we all are). My grandfather was Greek and a talented chef which may explain why I inherently love to cook... But you, my dear, are a talented writer and storyteller and how lucky we are to be the recipients of your gifts...thank you!

dive said...

Hi, Liz.
How on earth did you find our little short story writing circle? It's pretty much hidden away.
Thank you for your way too kind comments. Next time I post a story assignment, feel free to join in. It's fun!

Liz Berry Wagner said...

Oh dear! I did not mean to horn in on your little secret writing circle!!! I merely look at your blogs and saw this listed as one of them! I am so sorry!

dive said...

Hee hee, Liz. Please don't apologise. It's not much of a secret. Of course, now you've stumbled upon our lair you have to pay a forfeit of writing a story next time I post an assignment.