Beauchamp the Beauty

A flash of red flame appeared in the beautiful field and with a flourish of its tail darted for cover.

What is your name?

Shhh! Quiet! You will frighten it away!

Well, that is certainly an unorthodox response. Do you wish to remain anonymous? Or perhaps you’re referring to yourself in the third person for some esoteric reason?

Hush! No silliness just now. It is right here in front of my nose, I saw it just a moment ago. Hold very still. It will appear again when the light strikes it just so, and then I shall catch it. Yes, this time I shall catch it! My name is Beauchamp! Shh!

Okay then, Beauchamp, so how am I to interview you if you keep shushing me? And what is it? No silliness on my part…just trying to make headway on getting to know your most unconventional personage.

And I want you to know me, love, I do. But we must speak softly. Our whispers must nestle like two nude hatchlings in a feather nest. Now that’s a delicate image, don’t you think?

It—it has no name, my dear. That is a great part of its charm. Call it a glint, a particle of dazzle or resplendence or . . . call it je ne sais quoi if you must be French about it. It is made of flash and laughter and for as long as I can remember it lived in my right eye. And then something happened, something unspeakable, love, and it left me. I have been chasing it ever since and now it has brought me to this place, this . . . archive is it? I don’t know why it should be drawn here, but perhaps when I snatch it out of the air—any second now, my pet!—we shall find out! Shhhh!

Beauchamp, I must say we’ve certainly had a number of strange individuals appear around here, but you…you are splashing around quite a bit over the existing high water mark for weirdness in our humble archive. So, just to reiterate—you’ve alluded to something having happened that cost you the ‘it’ that lived in your right eye. Are you able to discuss what happened, if it’s not too traumatic for you? Please consider this a safe space in which to unburden yourself.

Oh it is a very sad tale. How to relate it without spooking my quarry? And should it flee I could only go chasing after it and be away before any of our whispers have nuzzled to our satisfaction.

But . . . perhaps there is a way. You, dear, seem the bookish type. An allusion or two would probably not slip by you too easily.

What if I were to tell you that, once, in a beautiful field there lived a vixen, and the beautiful field so loved its vixen that it grew lush and tall with foxgloves? What might you make of that, love?

I might make that you are straying off topic, Beauchamp. You appear to be one of those interviewees who is unable to be straight with answers. But that’s okay; we’ve run across those types before. Foxgloves, huh? I know fairies like ‘em. Beyond that…maybe I am dense but I’m not able to follow you into that field at the moment, B. Perhaps you could lay down a few more breadcrumbs…

I do not mean to be coy, my pet. Understand, I have for years sought the glint that escaped my girlish eye. It is so close now, right here in front of my face somewhere. To speak of the events that made it flee in the first place is a grave risk to my ever recovering it. Yet here I am, telling all. You see what tricky stones pave the path before us?

So let me try again, love. Nothing could be more on topic than this beautiful field. You might say, in French if you must, that the beautiful field is the subject itself! Shhh.

And this beautiful field discovered within itself a vixen, which is to say, a female fox, wild and full of dash and flair, and so the beautiful field grew tall with foxglove, yes, you understand me now, a glove in which to conceal a fox. And to keep this vixen, this part of itself hidden was wisdom itself, as you shall see.

So resplendent had the field made itself that a manor house grew up beside it, so as to always admire it. From the manor house there issued, what else? Sons. Because what else is a manor house for but the production of sons?

These sons—boys of an awkward age—would sometimes draw near the beautiful field. Yes, they seemed quite innocent and sad and looking for something. The beautiful field, not knowing what sons are capable of, saw no harm in giving them the smallest glimpse of what was possible in life. A flash of red flame appeared in the beautiful field and with a flourish of its tail darted for cover. The sons had seen it. Their eyes shone bright.

After this the manor house seemed never to sleep. Fires roared inside all night. Desire flickered in all its windows.

Ah, Beauchamp, now I’ve gone and fallen into your bewitching prose and lost myself…where was I again? Oh right, attempting and largely failing to interview you. Perhaps I’ve been going about this the wrong way, though. It’s clear you have a story to tell, so please do go on…

No, no, you’re doing a marvelous job, sweet. Just marvelous. It makes me all the more sad to grieve you with the turn this tale must now take.

When at last the manor house doors opened again, out came the sons, grown tall and brash. There was nothing of that sad inquisitiveness the beautiful field first liked about them. They arrayed themselves in red, in the likeness of a fox, only in a more bloody-minded hue. And they hopped onto the backs of steeds, to gallop in the manner of a fox, and alongside them romped a pack of dogs, much like a fox only clumsier and more eager to please. Raising a cry, the sons proceeded to hunt the vixen. One could say they tried to be the vixen, to beat her at her own game. And did they ever find her? No, they did not. But did this stop them from completely trampling the beautiful field in the process? No, it did not. They chewed it to pieces. I tell you, there was nothing left. And by the time they finished, the vixen had gone.

And now perhaps I’ve made myself clear? And if I have, have we frightened it away, love? It. That glint of flash and laughter that once made a home of my right eye? Perhaps we haven’t been talking as softly as we might have. Here, join me a moment. Hands up now. On the ready to snatch it. And stare without blinking right here, somewhere between our two faces.

Shhhh. Tell me what you see.

Oh Beauchamp, you’re making me get all teary-eyed now. Perhaps your glint has blown into my own eye and caused it to water. What a sad story. Like you, I also fear it has been frightened away. By us, all of us, embodied in those blood-suited sons and their mindless violence. All I can see is that lovely field—now stripped of its former glory and laid to waste. I’m aching all through my insides…

You do seem very sad and innocent and looking for something. You begin to remind me of—wait! Shh! Hold very still and tilt your head just so . . . yes, like that, and now open your right eye, dear, very wide and look at the sky. . . . There. You have it! Sweet Hera, you’ve gone and caught it! Though . . . it appears somewhat different in your eye than it did in mine. Hm.

Now close your left eye and look around. At your archive. At me. What has changed? Anything?

I’m not sure if anything has actually changed or if it’s just the way I’m looking at things that has changed. Like you, for instance. You look different than when I first saw you, before I had ever heard you talk or asked you any questions. You look less sad and frightening, and maybe…maybe more friendly.

Yes, love, and you are also more familiar. You remind me of someone. Someone I used to be, long ago. And you won’t mind, will you? if I sit quietly here and look you in the eyes for a while. And now our getting to know each other has really begun . . .

SS, NG

The Four Jesters of the Apocalypse

The forces of elemental destruction are, how do you say … just getting warmed up?

Well, hello. You’re a rough-looking crew. What are your names?

We have no use for individual appellations like the puny humans use. You may refer to us collectively as 4J.

4J—we have no idea what to make of that name, or, for that matter, of you. When we look at you we feel afraid and then we want to laugh. You keep us caught always uncomfortably between the two. How might you describe your disposition towards human-kind? Towards archivist-kind?

Color us largely ambivalent toward your ridiculous species, though we do enjoy donning these outlandish costumes from time to time and walking among you. If anything it distracts us from contemplating the coming Apocalypse. While we do see some meaning behind the work of your so-called archivists, it won’t matter much once everything is vaporized.

The irony of you in your absurd costumes calling us ridiculous is . . . notable. What’s the meaning of these costumes you wear? Do they serve a purpose? Also in terms of the phrase ‘the coming Apocalypse,’ please expand on the word ‘coming.’

We apologize if our garments offend you. In researching your species we came across the celebration known as All Hallows’ Eve and thought we would try to blend in, so to speak. However, that attempt appears to have fallen flat, given the number of highly distressed individuals we have encountered as we walk among you.

Given recent events on your failing planet you may think that you are living in the early stages of the Apocalypse. We assure you, though, that you have not seen anything yet. The forces of elemental destruction are, how do you say…just getting warmed up?

And how should we react to inescapable doom? We’ve often wondered this, what the right attitude is with so much destruction directly ahead. Should we be afraid or laugh? You’re ideal representatives of the coming Apocalypse, we’ll give you that. But perhaps we would know better what attitude to take if we glimpsed your true form. C’mon, give us just a peek under those costumes of yours.

Our advice is to act like it’s not coming. Live your lives as they unfold before you, regardless of the impending doom. There is no point in getting worked up over the inevitable.

Were we to remove our garments the sight of the gaping void beneath them would burn out your retinas. Is that what you want? We think you have enough on your plates as it is without also losing your vision. Therefore we thought we’d spare you this unpleasantness. It is our gift to you—the ability to see the coming horrors as they approach from afar.

Okay, okay, phew. You guys are intense. Not that we’re complaining. We appreciate the visit. So, what brings you down here (up here?) to our earthly plane of existence? I mean, besides distracting yourself from the coming Apocalypse? What diversions have you discovered?

We were just cruising around in the aether and happened to peer down at your planet whereupon we noticed how much havoc your species has wreaked upon it. So we thought we’d pay you a visit and offer our advice. Of course, while here we have taken the time to indulge in a few of your customs. In particular we’ve become fixated on corn mazes and bungee jumping, preferably when combined together. As for the sustenance you require to maintain your flimsy flesh husks, though, we find it largely bland and unappetizing with the exception of pickled ginger, which frankly we can’t get enough of.

Oh, interesting. The bungee jumping seems so obvious we won’t ask you about it, but what specifically do you enjoy about corn mazes? Is there one in particular you would recommend?

The precepts of our anthropological research dictate that we must partake in the most illogical activities known to be regular practices of the species we encounter. We are intrigued by the concept of an intentional effort to disorient oneself by entering a network of pathways on a grid designated for sustenance production. And all for the purpose of entertainment! What strange creatures you humans are. 

As separate activities we have enjoyed the corn mazes more than the bungee jumping. But for reasons we have not been able to determine, when we bungee jump into a corn maze we experience an unprecedented level of euphoria. We like to make a game of plucking the ears of corn once we’ve reached the end of our bungee cords and then consuming them as we ricochet back up into space.

We do not know the names of your corn mazes so cannot recommend any specific examples, but we have noticed the geographic area known on your planet as Iowa is particularly replete with them.

We are intrigued by this image of you hurtling towards and away from the earth while stuffing your faces with uncooked corn on the cob. How is the eating done if beneath your costumes there are no teeth, per se, but only blinding nothingness?

We simply stuff the ears into the mouth-shaped holes in our costume heads and they disappear. We do not ‘taste’ food as you do, but for some reason following our consumption of your sustenance known as corn there is a feeling of well-being generated in our consciousness.

OK well before you go zipping off, please accept this gift from the Ghost Paper Archives.

. . . Now, as you gain altitude, can we ask a favor? Will you describe us as you are flung away into the sky? Can you let us know how we look from way up there?

[removes garments]

SS, NG

Fustus

Think of this as a mere public relations call….. I am here to inform you of our…er, my existence.

Wow! What a dramatic entrance! What should we call you?

I am Fustus. That is all you need to know regarding my nomenclature at this juncture.

Greetings, Fustus. And thank you for appearing on Ghost Paper Archives. Our archivists have already begun to argue about what they’re calling—for lack of a better term—your “state.” Some think you’re an elaborate but basically persistent form, like a lily. Others think you are just a moment in time, like a splash or a flourish. They’re split fifty-fifty and honestly it’s getting a little tense. Would you care to clear the matter up for us?

I appreciate your interest in my form. Your archivists are not far off in their positing. My existence (as you are able to perceive it) actually lies somewhere in between those two theories. I am a florescence. At least that is what I am in your dimension of time. I appear in various places at various times of the year—when and where it suits me. When I appear it is instantaneous and in full form, and my departure—when it occurs—is equally sudden and complete.

Well, that brings up all kinds of interesting questions. Can you give us an example of a time and place you have appeared? (Perhaps the right word is “occurred”?)

On June 6, 2006, I materialized in the midst of a gathering of doomsday cult followers in the American state of Idaho. I intoned the word ‘Oops’ and quickly disappeared.

We never would’ve expected you to be funny, too. We assume you were mistaken for the Antichrist? Any word on what became of these devout Idahoans afterward? Are cases of mistaken identity something you commonly struggle with? (That was kind of a barrage of questions. Sorry. We’re very eager.)

Honestly, I don’t know what happened after I left. I possess a form of limited omniscience that grants me awareness of most earthbound activity, but after I interfere with the humans I am disallowed from observing the results of my endeavours.

My intention with the cultists was merely to sow doubt and discord among them. I can be quite meddlesome, even borderline malevolent, in that respect. I figured uttering the word ‘Oops’ would lead them to argue over the intent behind my exclamation. Maybe their interpretation was that I felt I was there by mistake: wrong date, wrong cult…who knows. I feel kind of high just thinking about it now, though.

To answer your last question: I rarely linger anywhere among the humans long enough to be mistaken for anything other than a white blur. At least that’s my guess—an educated one informed by experiences shared with me by the others.

Others! What others?

Oops. I’m not sure I’m at liberty to speak of them. Let’s just say for now it was agreed that I would be the one to speak to your group, or whatever you call yourselves, because I’m considered the most innocuous among us.

Fustus, given your history with the word, we’ll ask you to refrain from saying “Oops.” Well . . . now you have us worried, worried you’ve come, or worse, been sent by creatures more malevolent than yourself, to somehow meddle with the Archive. Do you deny this? If not, what do you hope to accomplish by occurring to us now?

Think of this as a mere public relations call—nothing more, nothing less. I am here to inform you of our…er, my existence, should you need something to distract you from the other seemingly terrible goings-on in your plane of existence at the moment. I can say that your Archive need not fear the possibility of meddling in its affairs—at least not from me. Generally speaking, I don’t like to make myself known to those whom I plan to meddle with prior to my initiation of the meddlesome act. It takes most of the fun out of it. Of course it’s possible your archivists might interpret this entire charade of an interview as a meddlesome act, but that is of no concern to me.

On whether you are in fact meddling by pretending not to meddle, we’re again split fifty-fifty. (We really need to settle on an odd number of archivists so as to have a tie-breaker in these situations.) Assuming what you say is true, that you’re here on a public relations call, please, by all means, deliver your press release, give us the news. We’ll publish it without editorializing, we swear.

Perhaps I have been unclear. I have no actual news to impart. My appearance alone is the news. Now that you know of my existence you’ll likely forget about it. And then once all trace of your awareness of me has dissipated I may appear again. Won’t that be fun?

You’ve turned the basic act of trying to know you into a Sisyphean act, which, no, doesn’t sound fun at all. It is an intriguing project, we’ll give you that, but isn’t it sort of sad for you to have no real . . . what do they call it? Object permanence. What meaning do you take from such an existence, Fustus? Can you share a moment that you’ve come to treasure?

For you to comprehend the full nature of my existence you would need to dematerialize. If you are ever able to accomplish that feat I will be only too pleased to get further acquainted. When I appear among the humans it is only as a brief physical apparition that enables them to acknowledge my presence. But my usual existence is formless and it is the most meaningful existence I can imagine. Every moment is a treasure, but I do particularly enjoy when the sun crests the edge of the Earth and I feel the force of its energy pass through me.

That does sound pleasant. Can you give us some insight on how to dematerialize? Just a few tips to get us started?

Certainly. Think of the smallest possible particle you can imagine. Concentrate all of your energy and attention on this image of infinitesimal proportions. Do this five times each day in five-minute sessions for five days in a row. On the sixth day at the sixth hour, do it for six minutes. After the six minutes are up, don’t open your eyes. Stand up and spin around rapidly until you can’t stand up straight any longer. When you eventually fall over you will wake to find yourself a speck in the vast expanse of space. If this doesn’t work then I know some people in Idaho who might be willing to take you in.

The Immaculate

Take for example the precise slant of the hat upon my head. Could such a ravishing angle have invented itself?

What is your name?

I am called The Immaculate. You may call me Mac, if that’s easier.

If you’ll pardon the observation, Mac, your appearance is certainly less than immaculate. How have you come by such an incongruous moniker?

I’m sure I have no idea what you mean. There is no inch of myself that has not been planned to the last detail, that I have not adorned, festooned, and emblazoned to the utmost. Take for example the precise slant of the hat upon my head. Could such a ravishing angle have invented itself? Now that you’ve noticed the angle, could you imagine any other in its place? Furthermore there is nothing about the man beneath the finery either, not my deportment, nor my character, nor my sensibility, that has not received the same attention, all of it quite thoroughly tweaked and tricked out. And should I seem somewhat . . . like a human birthday cake—for I once overheard a young, observant girl say this of me in the street—if you find yourself cloyed by so much personal fuss and filigree, perhaps allow your eyes a smaller nibble. The Immaculate was not meant to be gobbled down all at once.

I see. And what line of work are you in, Mac? Are these your normal workaday clothes? One could surmise they present some semblance of a uniform.

I do not work, though I’m hardly unemployed. It’s the duty of The Immaculate to be present at all times or places of importance. To be spotted in front of a theatrical opening as lords and ladies swish by en route to their seats. To make myself available by hovering at the edge of a press conference of grave significance. To station myself somewhat in front of the door of a department store upon the advent of the holiday sale. Yes, this is a uniform I wear. Very good. You are more perceptive than you at first seemed. It is a uniform for one, a livery of very high office, and must therefore be perfect in every point. On occasion I do have to trade out my bow if it begins to sag, but that’s very rare—it’s a bleak day indeed when my ebullient bow thinks of sagging.

I’m not sure ‘ebullient’ is the term I’d use to describe it, but I do concede that this bow of yours is not easy to ignore. Is there a story behind that particular component of your uniform that you’d care to share with our (certainly by now) captivated audience?

Certainly. There is no part of me that does not come with a story, to add significance and color.

There is a married couple who lives in a large house above Slew Street. They are prolific and have added to their account fourteen children and a songbird. If the missus has a favorite I can only think it is the songbird, for every morning she sways in front of the window and sings to it. Behind her, her husband and children, all plump and red-cheeked, talk and move with maximum haste making ready for the day. From the street below, beside a popular news stand, I oft enjoy this simple domestic scene framed so charmingly by the window.

One day as I approached my post, I witnessed a moving crew emerging from the rear of the Slew Street home. The mover-men were hefting a giant bed—the couple’s marriage bed, it could only be. There in the alley they abandoned it, with what future plan I do not know, and drove away in their loud stinking truck.

Well! What a desecration, to leave such an intimate fixture of family life propped against an alley wall! Feeling aggrieved and drawn off my track, I strode into the alley to make an inspection.

Why the love nest had been discarded was only too clear. Many of the springs had collapsed. The mattress was misshapen and its striped ticking was blotched all over with an irregular pattern of brown, ring-like stains. The mottled motif was quite involved. I took it in from many angles, at first bemused but then with a growing sense of excitement. It was, in truth, mesmerizingly beautiful. I could not appraise the mattress highly enough. It was a masterpiece.

An elation filled me, which I can only call “Art.” My heart raced. It was as though I’d been pulled here, into this alley and towards the mattress, by magnetic attraction. A great concentration of creative power was centered here. Yes! After all, was this not the site upon which fourteen lives had been conceived? Fourteen living souls—what artist’s atelier or writer’s garret could be said to have produced so much?

With my extremities all a-tingle, I could no longer resist. I rushed at the mattress, gripped the frayed seam of its ticking, and ripped it free. A flash of white feathers stole my breath away. White feathers heaping over my spatz. White feathers floating up and around me. White feathers swaying in the alley like dandelion seeds. I was immersed. And in the white feather swirl I swear I heard, distinctly, our missus’ morning song. I had penetrated to the core of that melody; I knew it now, from inside.

Behold The Immaculate in living rapture. This is the meaning of the bow, a gift I’ve unlaced for you.

For, you see, it was from the mottled mattress ticking that I later formed the decoration I wear round my neck. The material is rather stiff, so stiff I must minimize my yes-ing and no-ing to save my chin from being constantly chafed. The rest of my uniform I starch furiously—when it rains there is a faint smell of potato about me, which is delicious—but my bow has never wanted a drop of starch. My bow is ever a thing of substance, standing to meet all occasions. Except when it doesn’t, which, as I’ve said, is very rare.

Well, that is quite a tale, Mac. I’m not familiar with the area around Slew Street, nor can I find it on a local map. Are those your usual stomping grounds? And do you perhaps live in a dumpster nearby?

Slew Street is easy to find. Go to Crag Top and head south towards Shatter Alley. You can’t get there without meeting a prolix swerve of pavement lined with news and flower stands. That’s Slew Street. It may go by another name on your map. I’ve taken it upon myself to rename many of the drably named streets and landmarks of my city.

Yes, I’m often on Slew Street, but Slew Street is merely one of my many habitual locales. I make it a point to distribute myself as universally as possible. This requires me to tear from district to district at demon speed. I am quite a vision with my ornate coattails flapping behind me like a dragon’s wings. Fortunately I’ve been blessed with a Napoleonic proclivity for marching or I should be constantly run off my feet.

As for where I “live,” I can only be said to live in the street, for that is the place I am most seen and appreciated by those who are equipped to see and appreciate me. As for where I sleep or base my operations, I’ve had many places over the years, and I daresay a few of them have indeed been dumpsters. But err not! A dumpster is never a dumpster by the time I lay myself inside it.

My habitation must be as exquisite as The Immaculate himself. Much can be accomplished with bottle caps and tinfoil. Ribbons can be fashioned from a good many materials, as I have already demonstrated. I never think of embarking on such a project until I’m already weary and it’s often wretched work. By the time I’ve finished transforming the dumpster it’s nothing short of a palace, and I collapse into it with a resounding, metal shudder—all energy has been expended for beauty, none for comfort. It’s a shame that my habitations have not been preserved. I would think they’d make a fine exhibition, shown all together.

Indeed, your bedazzled dumpsters do sound like wonderful art pieces, Mac. If I had any gallery connections I’d surely put you in touch with them. You must be a true artist to sacrifice your own personal comfort like that in favor of a higher level of impractical decor. 

As much as I’d like to continue probing your psyche for more shiny nuggets of enlightenment, though, I think we’re going to have to bring this conversation to a close. It has been quite an experience meeting with you and learning about your curious ways. Are there any parting words of wisdom you’d like to share with our audience before you melt away into the gloaming?

Yes. To your admirable audience, a select and sophisticated coterie, I’m sure, I would counsel: If, by chance, you see me emerge before you from the sea of people on the street, do not let novelty be the beginning and end of your experience. Take me in. Little by little. Be patient.

You may start anywhere. With the inclination of my top hat or the poise of my neck-bow, with the unfailing dignity of my facial expression or any other exacting element of my personality. Do this and you will be amply rewarded. As I pass by, much will occur to you that has never occurred before, and yet you will sense that you’ve perceived only the merest fraction. As I vanish again into the human tide, you will feel a loss. You’ll wish we had longer together. But as now I slip from view, be rapturous. The Immaculate exists! There can be no doubt! For a moment your field of vision was filled to overflowing with him, with everything given its proper proportion, everything as it should be.

In this world where all colors are grayed together, where every force is blunted by its opposite to the point of aimlessness, there appears, from time to time, something pure. The Immaculate is unattainable, yes, but take comfort. Now that you’ve seen The Immaculate, he will always be with you.