Sippican Cottage

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I Must Not Do It


From the forthcoming book: The Regular
By: Sippican Cottage

I couldn’t buy her a birthday present. I have no money. That is to say: there is no money. Money can’t be had.

I have seen money. Felt it in my hand. I have wasted it one day and built temples to my fellow man the next with money, with no good reason to do either. I have watched it slumber in a bank book with my name on it waiting for nothing more than a notion and a signature. All gone. Gone for good, I think but must not say. She hears everything I say. I utter the sounds but I don’t listen to what I’m saying. What is the line? I must remember the line. Strut and fret upon the stage, I think. Strut and fret his hour, it goes. Yes, that’s it. I strut and fret though my hour is long over. Oh, I’m full of sound and fury.

The fury is nothing, just like in the play. I say these extravagant things and they roll off my tongue but they signify nothing to me or the rest of the world, except for her. That is why I must not say them. I must not, I must not. She hears them and they burrow deep and make a nest in her heart. She takes them in like a stray cat or a rain dog and gives them the home they don’t deserve. Same as she did for me, I guess. But my words are born hunchbacked. They foul their new nest and they break her heart.

It’s her birthday and I needed to find something. I chant it in my heart like a monk murmuring over his beads. I know why the monks chant. They chant to keep themselves from thinking about the topic at hand. They say words they can’t bring themselves to believe, over and over again, to keep from thinking about what’s coming out of their mouths. They have committed the great sin of being born, and they can’t handle it. They whisper some dread god’s name time and again hoping it will ease the expected blow if they bow and scrape. They never learn that dread comes with earplugs. Deafness comes with the job description. Gods or devils, it makes no never mind. What difference does it make if they brain you with a scepter by accident or poke you with a trident with a purpose? Either way, we’re just the front pins in their game of skittles, whether we’re good or bad. Sorry, I had to install a pillar of salt somewhere, and you’re in the way. Nothing personal.

Nothing is ever personal anymore. A man with eyes like a rat in the starlight put us in the street and said it was nothing personal. Something about having the sheriff tagging along made me suspect he was worried that there might be something personal in it for me. Our little boys looked dazed, and they naturally fear a man in a uniform. My wife never says much of anything but I could read it in her eyes – do not do what I was thinking of doing. I would have made it very, very personal right up until someone brought in the cosh, and she knew it. I yielded to her eyes, like I always have, and I began my new life of living by my wits.

I wasn’t trained to live by my wits, because I am educated. There aren’t any wits required in an office. There’s just a steady drip of nothing personal written in the ledgers and you tend them like a gentleman farmer. In a ledger, people are like carrots in a field. There’s a little bit of green showing to keep track of, but it’s the part you don’t see, the part that’s hidden from view, that defines what you are. Our ledgers were the turnrows that looked down the long winding field of useless green that a man waves over his head to prove to the world that he’s still there. When you grab that green and pull it out of the ledger, when you pull that carrot of a man out of the ground, that’s when you see what he’s really made of. The green was nothing. The green is separated, chop, chop, and the part that’s always kept below stairs is consumed. That’s why it’s a rare man that can afford to be pulled from the ledger.

I farmed men in ledgers all the livelong day without a care in the world until the man I worked for said stop. It was all I was good for, to keep track of the little useless tuft of green that testified that there was a man under there. I was pulled from the ledger like any other man and set in the street where a man lives by his wits or perishes. I’m not allowed the luxury of perishing, not with three other faces arranged around my kitchen table, and I have no wits. That is a hard place to find yourself.

I told her not to worry, that I would reason it out. That’s what I’m good for, reasoning it out. I said it like I say everything. Only she heard it. What could I figure out? The clocks ran backwards now, the sun rose in the west, and there were no ledgers to lord over anymore. I might as well have told her not to worry because tomorrow I’d teach myself to be left-handed. I don’t know what to do. How can I learn how to do it?

I took our little all and squandered it on men that said they had the answer. They said they’d let me in on it for a few pennies. These were men that knew how to live by their wits, I thought. I thought correctly, as it turned out. The only way for a man to live by his wits in this world is to find other men that don’t have any. They found me.

She never complained. Never. Sometimes I’d see her linger over the dishes in the sink, her back turned, her head hung down. There was a pause. She’d lean on the sink for a long moment and perhaps you’d hear the plosh of a drop of water that didn’t come from the tap. Then it would pass and she’d wash the dishes again. I never tried to conjure what was passing by the window of her mind. I’m ashamed to admit it but it’s true. I was afraid to think about it. I sat stock still like a coward until the moment passed, every time. There are some fears a man cannot face.

It was her birthday and I had to find something. I had to. I picked over the winter field of our possibilities one more time like a crow. Could I pawn a present from years gone by, when money leapt into my pocket? No, they were pawned already. I couldn’t steal. I could steal for myself, commit murder, even, if not for money, then for spite at least. But I could not steal for her. It would be like taking the washing from the line behind an angel’s house. She must never touch a stolen thing. It was a disease she must not catch from me without knowing.

I laid in the bed like the undertaker put me there, and turned it over in my head. Tomorrow was the very day and I couldn’t pick the lock of my mind to find what I needed. She was on her side, facing the far wall, and I didn’t know if she was asleep or not. Out of nowhere, she spoke like a whisper in a confessional.

“I know your mind. You must not do it. You must not try it. I know what is in your heart. You will want to make a big show of it but I can’t have it. If you robbed a train and bought me a tiara I’d wear it like a crown of thorns. No matter what gimcrack you bought I would have to ooh and aah over it, and keep it where you could see it. The money buried in it would haunt me every day. It would be a shrine to one more meal that the children would never get to eat, shown to me daily like a penance for a sin I did not commit. You must not do it.”

Just like that, the whisper stopped, and I was left to examine the ceiling again.

I would take my own life, you know, put an end to it, and gladly. One big thing, finally, that was more than just talk. Linger below the chin while shaving. Nothing to it. But I can’t leave her alone in this world. I must not do it.

Copyright 2015 Sippican Cottage. All Rights Reserved 

[Update: Many thanks to Chasmatic for his generous contribution to our tip jar. It is much appreciated] 
[Update: Many thanks to Bill O from Tejas for his friendship and generous contribution to our tip jar. It is much appreciated] 
[Update: Thanks to Gerard, Bird Dog, the AVI , and the Execupundit for linking to this essay. It is much appreciated]

Yngwie Matsumoto in the Land of the Rising Sunny

There is a magic place. It’s in a faraway land where they talk in little pictures and wear benches for shoes. I don’t know the name of this place, but it has a fried egg on the wall, and all they ever play there is Sunny by Bobby Hebb. That’s it. It’s like heaven on Earth for a guy like me. Well, except for the bass and drum solos, I mean. With thumb and slap bass, at that, another abomination. But still. Sunny !

I tried to translate the hieroglyphics on the YouTube page to see what this lost tribe of my brethren was trying to say to me, but all the translator could come back with was: “Fast Playing Session.” I’ll say. It’s like he had to go home early, so he’s trying to get in all the notes as fast as he can. He must be working piecework.

As I was saying, this is a magical place. It is my Xanadu. It is my Shangri-La. It proves me right, that Sunny by Bobby Hebb is the Official Cover Song of the Twenty-Teens. The fried egg on the wall signals only one thing: Sunny is coming.

Datfunk Is Featuring Vasilis Xenopoulos! That Makes it a Sunny Day

I hadn’t heard from Vasilis Xenopoulos in ages. Or about him. Or around him. Or something.

As you have probably guessed, when I heard that Datfunk was playing at the Afrikana Bar, I immediately decided to drive on over there. Or fly on over there. I dunno, swim there, maybe. Anyway, as soon as I figure out where it is, I’m there. Well, in spirit. I know Datfunk is trying to lure me from my lair by featuring Vasilis Xenopoulos on the saxophone. What grown-up can withstand the gravitational pull of that? I ask you. Vasily, or Vaseline, or whatever his name is, is world-renowned by several people. Dude can blow.

I don’t know anything. I admit it. I don’t know where the Afrikana Bar is. I don’t know who Vagisil is. I don’t know if those are Christmas lights or Kwanzaa lights hanging in the background. But two things I do know: Bobby Hebb’s Sunny is the Official Cover Song of the Twenty-Teens, and I’d kill four innocent drummers to get my hands on that drummer’s Stax/Volt T-shirt.

OK, I know three things. That last line was silly. There is no such thing as an “innocent drummer.”

Scusi, Ma Sunny è la Canzone Copertura Ufficiale del Decennio

Mi dispiace, but the Montefiori Cocktail version of Sunny is so hot you need a fire distinguisher just to listen to it. This version is sure to plummet to the top of our listings of the Official Cover Song of the Twenty-Teens. This version is unparalyzed in the history of the song. These guys don’t sing through their noses, they sing using their diagrams like they teach you in mucus school. I’ll sing their praises until the undertaker reads my last will and tentacle.

Monetefiori Cocktail

Aw, Baby, Don’t Do Me Wrong Like That. Sunny ‘n Me Was Only at the Party as Friends

You can’t beleeb everything you be hearin down the wisecracker line. Hippie Sabotage was cuttin’ and scratchin’ on Sunny and we got to groovin but she don’t mean nothing to me, baby. We was just playin checkers on triple decker buses in Tripoli. She don’t mean nathan to me at this particular time. She got flava, yeah, but I ain’t been fiendin for her, baby. It’s you, aight? What the dealy?

I’ve been tryin to call you all day, but I don’t have your number.

Sunny Weekend at Bernie’s

That’s not an orchestra. That’s hand-to-hand combat.There’s a battle for primacy between the trombones and trumpets than can only end in death or glory, like a bullfight or a school board meeting. They’re blowing into the wrong end of their instruments, including the piano, I think, as hard as they can, while slapping the person next to them the whole time. It’s glorious, in a way. By “in a way,” I mean it isn’t glorious at all.

Elephants Gerald, as I used to call her, was one of the greatest singers the United States ever produced. She was so good that long after her death in 1842, they’d prop her up on stages all over the world and listen to her anyway. This is just more evidence that Sunny should be named the Official Cover Song of the Twenty-Teens, because I said so.

This particular video does confuse me a bit, though. I have no idea why Tom Jones is wearing a motorcycle helmet.

El Sol de Mexico Derives His Ultimate Power From Sunny. And His Hair, Of Course

That’s not a hairdo. That’s architecture. Call in an expert. Send out for a consultant. Get Moses in here. He’ll turn down the contract. “You want me to part that guy’s hair? I’ve only done small jobs, like the Red Sea. I don’t think I’m up for this.”

You’ve never heard of Luis Miguel. He’s the “Latin Frank Sinatra,” which is a compliment, I guess. His agent can sell 250,000 tickets to see him in Mexico City just by whispering the concert dates out of his mail slot at 4 AM on any given Sunday morning, but that’s no reason why you should have ever heard of him. According to Wikipedia, he once sold 320,000 copies of one of his records in one day, but hey, it’s not like he’s famous or anything.

Of course, he was nothing and nobody until be performed Sunny, the Official Cover Song of the Twenty-Teens.

Sunny On the Corner

Can’t help but think of Miles’ On the Corner album when I hear jazz wah.

Why yes, I spent my formative years listening to Miles Davis electrofunk and Steely Dan records. It would have been a lonely four years of high school if I had actually attended. The secret to not attending high school and not getting caught is being sick on the first day of freshman year, tearing up the note your mother wrote, and then writing  your own. Then, every time you ditch school, you write your own note. The human-manatee hybrid behind the desk in the administrator’s office with the glasses on a lanyard would always dutifully check to see if the handwriting was the same, and then file it. Funny, it always was.

Of course you have to go to school on test days and pass anyway. That’s the complicated part. Complicated for you, I mean. I never had any problems. Of course, I’m smart enough to know that Sunny by Bobby Hebb is the Official Cover Song of the Twenty-Teens. But hell; any two Frenchmen know that.

Angular Pegheads Sound Good to Me

Is Ted Koppel counting down the Sunny days on Nightline yet? Is there a sign next to the eyewash station that reads:

It Has Been at Least 1 Day Since the Last Sunny Accident

I’m just warming up, really. I’ve outlasted the entire Internet before, you know. I hear the mechanized hum of another, Sunny-er world. Where the sun is shining, but no red lights flashing. Here in this darkness, I know what I’ve done. I know all at once who I am. I am the guy that’s making Sunny into the Official Cover Song of the Twenty-Teens.

The Disco Version of Sunny Is Almost Like Music. Almost

Of course Sunny by Bobby Hebb can’t be considered for the title of the Official Cover Song of the Twenty-Teens unless it has truly universal appeal. Unlike some people, Sippican Cottage does not discriminate against Polyester-Americans. I have a dream: I think people should be able to walk down any street in this great land while wearing a Qiana shirt without being subjected to giggling or cutting remarks. Polyester-Americans are people, too.

For too long, Polyester-Americans have lived in the shadows, their cries for respect drowned out by Boney M extended dance mixes, their faces illuminated only occasionally by an errant ray from a disco ball. They were forced to drink out of their own champagne fountains, and transact all their commerce in the rest rooms. It’s time we allowed Polyester-Americans the right to proudly tread the sunny uplands of society in their stack heels and unstructured white dinner jackets!

Month: April 2015

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