The Stone of Folly
It’s not so easy as you’d think, what with the squirming and the sniveling, to pluck the dang thing out of their heads. It takes a great deal of skill, I say, to leave the decent aura mater in the anterior ventricle. Otherwise, one little slip, and the poor sop would be without any imaginative ability at all, left staring at his own lap and mumbling arithmetic. I’ve seen it happen. Which is an improvement in some cases, let me tell you. Anyway, the blood and pus just blossoms up in squirts and dibbles as soon as you dig your scalpel clear through the skull. You have to proceed by blind feel most times, which is why it pays to have an experienced hand such as yours truly. Mind, once you’ve cut a little skylight there, you want to wedge in with your knife and make sure you get some purchase, kind of scooping under it—it’s a hard round foreign little dollop with the consistency of goat horn, about the size of a peach pit—and then, pop! It just flies out. That is, if the patient’s sat still for the trepanation, but of course when do they ever? So don’t blame me for the botch jobs and the bad rep we surgeons get: tell the madcap weasels to simmer down and stop agitating against the restraints. Now I’ll give you a discount, cut rate; I’m talking practically pro bono here. And I can throw in a bit of mercury or hen’s urine to boot, if you’d like. Sure, least I can do. Oh no, I don’t put much truck with those who say that god communicates with the fool through this medium. So they’re touched, so they speak in tongues? Trust me, loony-toons will rave a bunch of gibbery jibber-snatch. C’mon, god has a bazillion ways to deliver someone a message, why would he bother conferring his great wisdom through some twit-wit’s Blarney stone when he could send it FedEx, huh? You want my take on it, I side with Galen: the brain’s made of sperm. See, the stone of folly is really the same thing as stones that pass out the other end. Y’know, peter pebbles. Except when the excess agglutinates in the upper faculties, it’s more than just, uh, some minor discomfort in a bloke’s wienerschnitzel—when the calcium build-up sits on the brain, the channels between reason and the senses get totally blocked or scrambled. The effluvium can’t ingress to one’s sensorium, or the faculties be schnozzled, as we say. Jeez, no. That nasty rumor? Wha-who says I plant the stone in there? Bunkum and hogwash! That’s balderdash; poppycock! Those who say such things are clodhoppers. I mean, those cheeseparing scamps, they need my services, is all: a downright cranium transplant, I’m talking, those hoodwinkers. But, hey, every fool loves his folly, am I right? It’s a verifiable fact that my operations have saved the sanity and preserved the right-thinking of hundreds, nay thousands. It’s not a pretty job, but someone has t—oh yeah, well, it does have some small fringe benefits, true-true. I get to keep the stones. What? What I do with them? I mean, play marbles, tiddlywinks with them, mostly.
Young men half whispering they are girls a lace of branches over them a hole that’s broken into stars half dreaming through their gills the men not men but boys something lucent something slow and smoky something looking like the mind’s own fraught decay as night howls distantly each footstep approaches whether girls or other men the boots through the mud squish-squish the tall silhouettes the trees the cold crack of twigs worms coming up to breathe the dim glow from a fire they never put out the hypnogogic tent-lit outlines and the shining knife the owl or something calling something still and down into the twisting inner dark of something—who?—the boots which creak along the margins dim flashlights casting specters on the brambles the ripe pried mouths covered in their screams and others only clouds a shroud that sails along the reeds that covers the lonesome pockmarked moon and what seems a tattered wreath of fog the man a child a child of god the neck’s chilled hairs gone stiff an overcast a casing or a soft bright rain that tips the thin and curled and desiccated heartlike leaves and the scattered coils like something’s intestines what of the girls the men the girls the men the swamp a feverish delirium of boys their moist bodies each like a crooked empty tube that folds upon itself the eyes which open on another void a web a spill a slur of voices as the glowworms purl and phosphoresce small rodents tucking their fat selves away the molting in the furred cocoons the nestled rustle of the sleeping bags and everything in shadow only only the vaguest wash of gray and suddenly and more and when and standing over the men the boys the group of girls the man the man his thin white dirty eyes squish-squish like glinting knives the man approaching now.
A man in a trenchcoat, really a man in a trenchcoat, with hairy legs poking out clumped through the park, chin tucked down in his popped collar, from which his bright quivering furtive eyes squinted and sparked. I could tell his black pupils were dilated even through the drowsy wreaths of vapor. It had been raining, but then the rain turned to mist, and now ragged and glowing swatches of fog floated over the ground. Some people claim that time isn’t real, that it’s just a byproduct of our mental processes—as if the mind’s cocoon prevented us from remembering the future, from knowing the past was as much alive as the present moment: well, that’s what the fog was like, that type of cocoon. The man veered off the woodchip path, shortcutting onto a trail through the shrubs. I followed. The man wanted to expose himself, it was obvious, why else would he wear a trenchcoat with nothing underneath? But, like most flashers, he was shy, shy and introspective, a loner, given to imagination, prone to second-guess himself, awkward in formulaic everyday situations such as grocery shopping or opening a bank account or blind dates. An unrequited compassion gargoyled him through his long solitary nights, I was sure, making fractals and festers out of his whole can of brain-worms. The vegetation grew dense, the path lost its way in the mud, the mizzling air pinpricked with light-sources each shrouded with auras. The man took another sharp turn. I thought about shouting, but what would I shout? That I was barely twenty, almost still a teenager? Besides, if he suspected I wanted to see, what would be the point? Everything glistening and moist, heavy and damp. I hurried on, tracking his silhouette through the trees as best I could, but the fog was so thick, thick and translucent like the plastic tarp they put over people so you know that they’re dead.