Rendered Fat Content


Moses Placed in the River (detail), from World Chronicle (text in German),
Germany (Regensburg), about 1400–1410, artist unknown;
author, Rudolf von Ems.
The J. Paul Getty Museum
"Moses has been placed into the river."

I think of stories as having a beginning followed by a middle followed by an end, though most don't seem to flow that way. Stories most often feature a beginning followed by a middle which is then followed by AnotherBeginning, more Möbius Strip-like than linear, multi-dimensional and circular. Each homecoming hints at another impending adventure. Even happily ever after suggests ongoing activity, not represented by detailed description but by more general inference. Even the most finite-seeming story leaves unanswered questions which suggest more than described. I'd conclude that every ending is AnotherBeginning, but there's no clear ending in sight. Perhaps consequently, I seem perfectly capable of identifying endings. 911 seemed to delineate the end of an era which I might have chosen to grieve over as if I'd lost my innocence. It also seemed to delineate AnotherBeginning, too, though, within which I might choose to divorce myself from my past. It was, of course, both and neither, my choice, my characterization which made it one or the other or both. Both beginnings and endings seem inescapably arbitrary.

This series of stories also begins arbitrarily, on the morning of the first day of Spring 2020, a day rather near the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic, an event which only recently swept into prominence.
I've chosen to begin this series of stories now because I finished my prior series of stories, my SmallThings Stories, yesterday. After three months of daily story writing, I, by prior design and long-standing practice, declared an ending which also by prior design and long-standing practice necessitated AnotherBeginning. I allow myself no retiring. My family, The Muse, The GrandOtter, and I find ourselves sequestered, two days into a mandated two week time out ordered by The Lab, where The Muse works. She'd traveled to Washington State, an early center of Covid-19 spread, and Lab rules commanded that she cool her heels in home-bound isolation under a preponderance of caution. The whole world seems to be shutting down under a preponderance of caution. We believe in The Better Safe Than Sorry Theory Of Living right now, cowering in defense and deference to a great unknowable.

Any day might prove to be an auspicious day to decide to make AnotherBeginning, just like any day might prove to be an inauspicious day to make AnotherBeginning. Life, when lived forward, seems more continuous than it necessarily needs to be seen. Time-outs are allowed, so are left turns. Like you, I've started more adventures than I've ever finished, though completion comes in many different guises. If I believed in endings, I might conclude that every adventure turns out precisely the way it was supposed to turn out, for each adventure turns out to spawn AnotherBeginning, most often, it seems, without first drawing any definitive conclusions. One moves on. Like with 911, one could choose to grieve over whatever seems to have been left behind or cower in terror at what seems to be lurking just over the fresh horizon. All responses seem valid, though none seem completely necessary. Reactions seem arbitrary, too, more a matter of choice than of necessity.

The operant question this morning seems to be WhatNow? Now that the whole danged world seems to have shifted on its axis again, what comes next? Nobody knows for sure what happens next. The news suddenly seems more urgent and compelling if not necessarily more informative. It's not that we're necessarily drowning in FakeNews, but that news cannot report on what's not known yet. AnotherBeginning brings a fresh rush of uncertainty, of fundamental unknowability, to disrupt what we were certain we could know before. Our prior understandings failed to inoculate any of us from the disorientation AnotherBeginning brings. A fresh batch of fundamentally undecidable dilemmas face us, as if we had made much headway on the old batch of fundamentally undecidable dilemmas. We grew accustomed to that old batch and have developed no callouses against the fresh ones. We ask different fundamentally unanswerable questions now, though we're unlikely to stumble upon fully resolving answers. We'll probably embrace tentative answers, like we did before, and eventually lose the sense that we do not know.

I feel as though I'm opening a fresh mystery, unfamiliar characters confronting me, the opening scene only hinting at the author's underlying skill. I won't know until I'm well into this story whether this author proves to be a compelling storyteller or just another James Patterson who's subcontracted his work. I'm hoping for a James Lee Burke this time, with a damaged but benevolent protagonist nicknamed Streak, evil held at bay. Even here, familiar patterns swirl before me, each morning spawning another mini-mystery wrapped within a larger one. It's mystery all the way down right now. I'm making everything up as I go along. The Otter and I yesterday visited a local cafe which we'd heard was selling fresh bread. We arrived to find a table blocking the front door. The proprietor greeted us after coming forward from the open kitchen, took our order, then returned with our bread. I asked her how she thought she'd fare during this mandated shut-down of all sit-down restaurants and she insisted that her business model leaned heavily toward to-go business, so she thought she'd likely survive. Not every establishment around here seems nearly as fortunate. The biker bar which typically sees its parking lot overwhelmed by motorcycles and cars won't thrive selling to-go food. Moses has been placed into the river. The current decides WhatNow? for him.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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