09 November 2009

JOE SAVES THE UNIVERSE

Ladies from Immanuel Methodist are serving the volunteer meal tonight: spaghetti and homemade meatballs, vegetables and chocolate chip cookies. Joe has finished eating, probably the only thing he's eaten all day, and prattles on about his latest favorite subject. He's trying to find a way to reverse the cosmic protocol that causes the End Of Time on December 31st. He has no source for his date on this End of Time thing. Joe never sites sources, because ideas pop into his consciousness, he becomes fascinated by them, then he can't let them go for hours or days. For example, in the basement laundry room there is an old bricked up doorway, an old coal shoot, or possibly a former connection to Underground Railroad tunnels. Joe will hear none of this. He believes, he knows, that the bricked up aperture is a portal to another universe. "If I can adjust my clock so that it has 90 hours," Joe explains. "Then I think I can prevent the end of time. If all the clocks had 90 hours ---." Joe then launches into a recital of the seemingly random names he has assigned to each of the new hours. "Hollowell, Lumina, Dregnots, Edwardia..." Someone gently taps their spoon on the table, and this seems to distract Joe from his litany. He pauses, trying to mentally regroup. "But, ah...so what I'm saying is, uh..." We tell him that probably not all the clocks in the world need to be changed to a 90 hour day. As long as one person can successfully alter the configuration of his clock, then the End of Time will be averted. Joe seizes upon this. "Yeah, that's what I'm saying! That's me! Or it could be me! I'm going to keep working on it." He shakes hands with everybody at the table. His hands are stained brown and yellow from endless smoking. He steps out onto the patio to smoke again and listen to the chaos in his head. He has no ability to think abstractly. He tries to mimic what people sound like when they are speaking abstractly, but what he actually says is nonsense. He can't understand why people don't take his ideas seriously. Last week he told me that he made up a new joke: Why are church steeples green? Because they have VD! He doesn't laugh after he tells this joke. He does not experience irony or farce. Yet he is deeply puzzled as to why I don't laugh. The more Joe tries to convince you that he's like everybody else, the more incoherent and disconnected he sounds. He is so thin inside his billowy t-shirt that you wonder if he's anorexic. His major food groups are nicotine, caffeine, and whatever is served by volunteers that evening. If there is no volunteer meal that night, he has a dinner of Faygo and a microwave burger. Joe is doing his best. He is optimistic about Time not ending.

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All original text (C) 2007, 2008 David J. Carney. All rights reserved.

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