he mall is magic. It is a snapshot of our world and a hint of what is to be. Take the ubiquitous store selling horny toads, filthy posters, naughty joke coffee mugs, dildos, nectarines and rubber balls. Is it necessary? Wrong question. It works.
See this girl here, the one with twelve rings in her eyebrows? She may purchase a poster at the store, take it home, nail it to the ceiling and gaze at it dreamily while eating a nectarine, palming a rubber ball, and absentmindedly tracing a circle with her finger on her down comforter. Has she gained anything? Absolutely: mastery over the situation, presence of mind, tranquility, a glimpse at a sliver of meaning.
Can we truly understand the immensity of human suffering merely by strolling through the Galleria? Certainly not. But we can get a random sampling. Take this babbling child being pushed in a stroller in a serpentine fashion by his mother. Is anyone really listening to his garbled nonsense and if not, does he deserve a deaf ear? After all, there was the pureed squash incident last week.
Here we have an establishment offering for sale pretzels of all descriptions: plain, with cheese, garlic, macadamia nut, salmon, truffles, onions, cilantro, baby greens. The sight of the twisted, impregnable mass of dough spinning its web of deceit provokes sobbing in a red-shirted woman. An employee of the pretzel factory, a young man of sinewy girth, reaches over the counter to embrace her. "Would you like a beverage with that?" he whispers.
Running shoes are stacked vertically and horizontally for miles, encouraging physical exertion, healthful living, spiritual exultation, emotional confusion. A video arcade: a gargantuan insect infected with the Ebola virus chases an ectomorphic, bespectacled explorer through the Chilean jungles, seizes him and drains his body of fluids. His carcass floats upward, flapping forlornly and tracing an oval in the brilliant sky.
Here, quick, I recognize this gentleman. I know those sad doe eyes, that red wisp of beard, the supple, pouty lips. It is my high school geometry teacher. He is wearing a twisted pretzel mass hat and an aqua polo shirt with a gold pin in the shape of a pretzel. Has he fallen on hard times? I want from him safety, remembrance of happier days, a sliver of meaning, a return to solid, clean lines and shapes. Faster, he has turned the corner! We can catch him; I believe he has a slight limp. Thank God, we have cornered him by the drinking fountain.
"What do you want?" he hisses, sweating.
"Hard work, magic, elucidation," I respond.
Wim Hylen's work has also appeared at Collectedstories.com. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona.
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story copyright by author 2005 all rights reserved