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Baker, Baker - rhea daniel

Baker, Baker


“It was an awareness of a new kind of potentiality, one very different from my old sense of the word, which had been based on illusions of ambition. The mess of my life, the selfishness and false turnings and the treacheries, all these things could fall into place, they could become a source of construction rather than a source of chaos, and precisely because I had no other choice. No doubt our accepting what we are must always inhibit our being what we ought to be; for all that, it felt like a step forward - and upward.”
- John Fowles, The Magus





I led Katrina around my desk in her delicate little dance. She didn’t have to try very hard; she had been born with the ballet shoes permanently painted onto her rubber legs. She twirled around my index finger and followed it effortlessly as the lesser ones watched. She treaded between staple pins and leapt over books, improvising around my giant finger. The mesmerized audience watched her performance in silence. She finished with a magnificent bow and I clapped for her as I always did.

“All right, bedtime everybody,” I said.

My voice boomed authoritatively and the rest scurried off to their secret little nightlives. They never really slept, or needed to. I only uttered the word ‘bedtime’ to impose some order to their miserable existence. I didn’t care what they did behind the shuttered doors of the cupboard, as long as they didn’t do it out in the open.



“Oh no, please don’t do that…”

“Hey, esperpento, let her go, you ugly goat!”

Sigh, to be woken to the charming sounds of a circus at dawn… To most people in love with their work, retirement spelt loneliness and boredom ….For me, I had my very own freak show.

“All right, what is it…don’t you people ever sleep?” I made my way to my desk with my pajamas around my knees and the musty smell of morning clouding my mouth.

“Oh, no, sir, its nothing really…”

Katrina was trying to extricate herself from Jack’s steel-wire grasp around her delicate wrist. The bells on Jacks’ three-pointed hat jangled as he …what exactly was he trying to do? Eduardo had grabbed hold of the seat of Jack’s tights and was yanking for all he was worth.

“This ugly goat tried to kiss her!” he bellowed.

Alright. That is it. Jack had overcome his shyness and had finally made a pass at Katrina. Ever since he had laid eyes on her he had watched her from the shadows; his slit eyes had followed her like a hawk, watching her every move, scaring her out of her wits, tempting me to lock him up separately every night.

I grabbed one of the three prongs that made his silly clown hat between my forefinger and thumb and lifted his struggling form off the desk. I slammed him against the soft board on the wall and jabbed a pin through his stomach, pinning his flailing, lanky form to the board.

“Let me go, I tell you…”

“Leave her ALONE,” I shook my finger at him.

I wonder how my gigantic, bespectacled face must have looked to him. My bristly beard could swallow any of them if they fell in.

“Let me go!” The pin was tearing at his costume as he struggled. The stuffing was beginning to spill out of his abdomen, which I would eventually have to repair.

“You made me like this!” he screeched.

He suddenly gave up his struggle and hung silently from the pin that impaled him. The bell from his hat hung over his head and hid his long face. I had made his face with two expressions in mind: a grin and a frown. He had been a court jester and he was made to hang around in the shadows and be creepy, besides some acrobatics his steel-wire frame allowed. But whatever face he pulled, he couldn’t help the wickedness surfacing.

“Oh sir, is he hurt?” asked Katrina.

Dearest, darling Katrina. Worried about the idiot who had just tried to take advantage of her.

“Don’t you worry my dear. I’ll take care of that.” I picked her up gently by the waist and laid her on the roof of the cupboard. She leaned over the edge, peeping curiously in the direction of Jack’s motionless form.

“He’ll be fine; give him time,” I shrugged. She nodded, still worried.

“Ey, Papaíto, did you see how I kicked that animalucho’s ass?”

“Yes I did, Eduardo, I did,” I picked him up by the seat of his pants and put him back into the cupboard.

“I really gave him good beating, eh?”

“Yes, yes,” I mumbled absently, “Good beating, yes….”

I shut the door in his eager, grinning face.

Poor Eduardo. Cuckolded by his flamenco dancer wife, he was grateful that I took him with me before the humiliation recurred and became more than he could bear. Eduardo had been a bullfighter before he found out his wife was up to more than dancing. As a result of his frequently bruised ego, he was trying desperately to hang on to the remnants of his glorious past by keeping a protective eye on Katrina, since there weren’t any other women around to impress. When I left the studio, he came with me. Better a man leaves a woman than the other way round, he had said.

Jack.
I lifted his limp form and gently extricated the pin.

“You..mhh…ff…” he was mumbling something between his thin lips and I couldn’t make out what. I had considered counselling him, but then conversation with Jack would make anybody’s gorge rise after a while.

I put the stuffing back with a pair of tweezers and began to sew over the ripped fabric on his front.

It was true that the moment you created something, some fraction of your hate or love went into it. Mara had left me; the studio treated me like a piece of crap; my diabetes was driving me nuts. Everything important to me seemed to be crumbling. Jack was a sad result of a whole lot of negative things. I mean, he looked bad and he smelt bad. When you heard him speak, his raspy, scaly voice would make your skin crawl; when he opened his mouth you would be assaulted by his fetid breath. And when he looked at you through his yellow slit eyes, you could feel a chill run down your spine. He seemed evil, but only potentially so. I had experienced nothing I could actually complain about; though I knew that of everything in his tiny world Jack hated one thing the most-- I, his creator. Sometimes I imagined him killing me while I slept, jabbing a pin through my jugular. I was the reason he was so damned ugly. Even when he smiled, he was ugly. It was my fault everyone loathed the sight of him. I thought of putting him out of his misery. I’m still thinking about it.

There was just one person who was still polite to him, Katrina. But then, Katrina began as a drawing by my nephew’s five-year old hand. She was an unspoiled product of innocence; there wasn’t a bad molecule in her frail little form. She was the only one of the lot who was the whole package, beautiful inside and out, and that’s why they were all drawn to her like flies to honey.

Jack had finally begun to relax in my grasp. The sly, slimy side of him began to surface again.

“You know, Papaíto, you growing old,” he began.

I didn’t reply. Despite everything, Jack was smart. Before you knew it he had you caught in his web of words, and what seemed like hard cold facts were cleverly concocted lies…Or at least…I think so.

“You always wanted to be free; you got your wish,” he continued.

I turned him over and began to work on the hole on his back. He hung limp from my hands, his mouth still working.

“The senorita, she left you. Who’s to blame? You didn’t want her anyway. She was a pain. Always crying for you to be with her all the time…hysterical when you left for work …hanging on to you like that…”

I kept my hands steady on the stitches; the mending was leaving a ripple on the silk of his costume. The stitches would disappear over time.

“She wouldn’t understand why you spent so much time in here, talking to yourself. Making the silly dolls, she didn’t understand…she couldn’t see the magic, she was blind to it….”

The silk was beginning to fray so I had to patch it over with another colour. Why not... it would give him a worn look. I was beginning to like old things.

“But you miss her, no, Papaíto? You miss the coffee every morning, you miss her voice…. the smell of her hair…but she left you…..she said she was better off alone….but she is not alone. And you are…aren’t you? She’s with that one you hate so much, and he makes her happy…..even now, after thirty years…”

My hands were beginning to shake; I needed some sugar.

“Women. They drive you crazy with their whining and their ‘be with me now..I want this I want that….you forgot my birthday..wee wee…’ in the end they go to where the grass is greener and the pockets are heavier…silly, complaining, superficial…”

Done. I turned him around.

“…bitches,” he finished in my face. I gagged at the gust of yellow tinged, foul smelling air that emanated from his mouth. He noticed and his grin spread all the wider over his elongated face and the apples of his cheeks stood out like shiny red balls. His teeth were even, like rows of gravestones.

“What will everyone do when you’re gone, eh?” he whispered, his eyes narrowing, “The muñeca, the ugly baby, that mad one you keep locked up in the safe, that bullfighter who lost his balls over his woman, just like you did…so long ago?”

I opened my drawer and threw him in with the rest of the junk I hadn’t sorted for years.
Jack was an eight-inch, wire frame, malice-packed demon from my past. I didn’t think all that hate and pain could form a little moving, talking tumour like that. I couldn’t even kill him. I could never kill anything that seemed a part of me, no matter how rotten it was. Just when you think you’ve left the past behind, you feel it leaking through the edges of your consciousness.
Well, Jack embodied the leaking that burned little holes in my heart.

I wondered, as I often have wondered, if our lives could be turned around, would they still be so full of regret….If I hadn’t done this, or had done that…if I had had more patience…if I’d chosen this over that…if….if……..If.

“Gerald?”

I heard Big Baby’s voice followed by a faint knocking from the inside of the cupboard.I walked over and opened the door.

At first glance Big Baby always looked like a miniature sumo wrestler. He had the gelatinous rolls of fat that jiggled with the slightest movement and sagged repulsively all over him. His bald head was small and seemed to have little to do with the rest of him, and his singsong voice combined with all of that didn’t seem to let him fit into any role in particular. He could barely carry his own weight, so he never moved. He had lain forgotten in a corner with the old models before I found him. I think he had been a fat woman opera singer before someone decided to give him a sex change and gave up halfway, so he was sort of stuck in between.

“You know, Gerald, we discussed our situation last night,” he began melodiously.

“Yes, we did,” said Katrina, nodding emphatically from the top of the cupboard.

“We thought a lot, Papaíto,” said Eduardo.

“Ahem, we…we…” ventured Big Baby.

I sighed and crossed my elbows. Clearly they would take some time to articulate.

“We have discussed this many times, over many time,” said Eduardo.

“Yes, and we were wondering what would happen to us when…whenwhenwhen…”

“When you’re gone, Papaíto,” said Eduardo.

“We want to know what you intend to do with us…under the circumstance of …of..of..”

"Muerte. If you die, you know,” Eduardo shrugged.

It hadn’t occurred to me that the thought of my impending death was a source of concern for my little companions. I didn’t think they thought that far into the future. I didn’t even think the word ‘future’ existed in their vocabulary.

“We really don’t want to lie here, like in the studio,” Big Baby shuddered at some faint memory of the place, and his blubber shuddered with him.

“We want to know if other people like you will care for us, like you do,” said Katrina from her perch.

“We are nothing, nobody will want us. So we thought we could do one thing,” said Big Baby.

“We thought we could go with you,” said Eduardo.

“Go with me where?” I asked.

“You know, to God, like in the Bible,” said Eduardo.

“To heaven,” said Katrina.

I let out a long breath.

“We do not think we would be accepted by this world, Gerald,” said Big Baby.

“We are ugly and useless, Papaíto. We have no battery. Nobody can hear us without battery.”

“Except you, you who made us.”

I heard Jack scraping through a crack in the drawer. His one arm had already crept through and he was pushing his way out.

“Yes!! He made us into the freaks we are! Tell us what you are you going to do with us Gerald?”Oh I don’t know, burn you in the rubbish pile where you belong.

Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another into dishonour…” A droning combined with a rattling sound interrupted us and I looked towards Jack.

Who let out the preacher?

“I let him out,” said Jack smugly, crossing his legs and sitting at the edge of my desk. Jack, you clever debris of my every putrid thought.

“…Endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction…”

I turned to the rest and said, “Listen, people. You are NOT ugly. Nobody in this world is ugly. You’re just…unconventional, that is all. Unique..…”

“…And that he might make his own riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory…”

“Where is he?” I looked for the voice under the darkness of my desk and snatched up the rattling form of the mad preacher.

“Back where you belong,” I said.

His black habit was now gray and torn and hung in rags. His matted hair was overgrown and his mad eyes stared between the dark locks. He had been made with one of those placard-holding tramps in mind that preached doomsday, but his personality had intensified, into something else altogether. With a bit of foresight I had installed a key at his back that turned him off, because his incessant droning eventually crept in through the cracks of your consciousness until you felt yourself doubting your own sanity. What I never realized was that it sent him into a catatonic state and the pressure of words just built up inside him. So when I turn him on again the next time, there was an explosion of words, words, words; joined up together and making little sense.
I put him in a metal safe after that to cool him off, until Jack had let him out.

“You are not the Creator, you dare think you could match the glory of the Creator of all things in this universe!” the preacher pointed a shaking, accusing finger at me. “You will burn for your sins, you the Pretender! You who thinks of himself greater than God!”

“What does he mean?” asked Katrina from her perch.

“Harken O brethren! Your suffering will end with the destruction of this sinful planet! Blessed are the meek…”

“Blessed are the freaks!” screeched Jack.

“Your suffering will end when you embrace the Lord!” he screamed before I slammed the door of the safe in his accusing face.

“What did he mean, sir?” asked Katrina.

“He meant our suffering will end when we die,” said Jack.

“Shut up, Jack I’ve had enough of you,” said I, “Nobody’s going to die.”

Funny religion, Christianity. Telling us to mess ourselves up over some prize waiting at the other end while the one life we have finishes up waiting for it. What if there was just this one time we spent here on earth, and nothing after? What if we were just puppets at the end of a string, not being able change anything about ourselves, believing all the time that we could?





I killed Jack that very night. I thought I did, at least. Until I realized he was creeping back into my head. Every little screw-up bobbed back to the surface in my memory and I could feel the same rage that consumed my past creeping back, burning my heart, burning my lungs and making it difficult to breathe. How I hated myself. How little I mattered alone in this world. And I had given up the one person who didn’t treat me with the casual indifference that the rest did. What a fool I was to think that I had mattered all this time, now that I had nothing.

Papaíto, you awake?”

“He’s sleeping, don’t wake him.”

“Where’s Jack?”

“I haven’t seen him.”

Esperpento. Good riddance.”

“What do we do, I’m bored.”

“We wait for Papaíto to wake up.”

“What if he doesn’t?”

“I don’t know. May be he go to Catatonia, like mad preacher guy.”

*****


-rhea daniel
darkness_box{at}yahoo{dot}com

7 Comments:

At 4:02 AM, Anonymous nitin said...

truly fascinating read! good job rhea.

 
At 4:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Catatonia - Schizophrenia - was it all in the head? or were there real puppets?

but if it were all in the head how wud the "voices" wait till he wakes up (from death?...coma?)?

 
At 4:49 AM, Anonymous Rhea said...

Death?Coma??voices??!!puppets??!!!

I'm trying to be deliberately vague and if i've puzzled you
thats wonderful news...dont want to explain it all away ..may be later when more people have read it...Just draw your own conclusions for now, anonymous. Glad you noticed the supposed incongruity.

 
At 12:16 AM, Blogger Suraj Kamath said...

brilliant, rhea. works at so many different levels. Jack could be an actual magical toy, a metaphor for the evil in the heart of his creator, a voice inside his head as someone suggested... incidentally, why is Gerald's ex wife named Mara? Did you intend to liken her to the mara of buddhist lore?

 
At 8:46 PM, Anonymous Rhea said...

Not really, no, the name Mara just came to mind. Though if its got you making connections then it got atleast one of my readers thinking about it, which is great! Though...Mara isn't really a bad character, a distraction in Gerald's life at some point yes..which could explain the connection you made.

 
At 1:30 AM, Blogger Suraj Kamath said...

Pretty much, yes. Mara, to me, is quite like that. Mischevious, playful, tries to trip up the unsuspecting. Like the Norse God Loki. Evil, well, who knows?

But your comment reminds me of a small point of debate I have had with many other writers. Whats most important to you, while writing? Recording the moment, evoking emotion, or provoking thought?

 
At 8:36 PM, Anonymous Rhea said...

Don't really think of those things WHILE writing but if it happens once people read it then it makes me glow with pride, thats why I keep beggin' for comments, even if it to tear what I've written to bits.

So please rip apart, folks. I'd really appreciate it.

 

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