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The Stars are Wonder
A short story from Cheeseburger Brown
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The Stars are Wonder, a short story by Cheeseburger Brown, illustration by Matthew Hemming

11.
My Wives Cannot Count


I cannot pronounce of the name of our people yet, but I'm trying.

Our lives are simple, and good. We have houses on little legs to keep them safe during the monsoons. Our boats are painted to resemble different fish, an idea whose origin is lost but whose tradition is artfully embraced. When people around here laugh they make clicking sounds with their tongues, a refrain more refined and subtle than one might suspect. I practise laughing every day, in order to fit in.

I remember standing in the surf to see off my surviving shipmates as they set out upon their makeshift craft, determined to find civilization and greatness and all the glory that is the Empire. My wives, neither of whom can count, stood by my side.

We waved and smiled as their vessel diminished in perspective and then sank below the edge of the world. I was in a great mood. I had no regrets.

Whether or not my shipmates ever found the passage home is unknown to me. I don't really care. I eat nuts and berries and I wear a loincloth. When it's rainy I get a little bit wet, but most of the time it's sunny here.

I cultivate edible roots, which is demanding but satisfying labour.

I'm still quite handsome when unstarved. To the eyes of the colourless savages I am ugly, however, and thus have to work hard at my marriages. Likewise I cannot get by on charm, because to these villagers my ways are uncouth.

They find my songs hilarious. They rib me about my civilized habits.

However they also view me as a man possessed of special knowledge, though I discourage it. The wonders of the Empire don't seem so wonderful to me anymore. I have no ambition to introduce them in any kind of detail to the magical precepts or the arts of masonry or feminine cartography. I would sooner tell them the truth, and that I will never do.

Who would want to know?

Who would want to know that the sky is full of suns? (When I learned that from my trapped angel a chill ran down my spine and in a certain way I have never felt warm there again.) Who would want to know that what was held as great is in fact paltry? (When I realized that the godlet cried for me.)

We call the world "the world" but its name is Eden, a globe where our founding blood travelled to live apart from knowledge.

I learned that she, like me, was an animal called a human being, bred by circumstance in a far away time at a far away place called Sol.

She told me she had come from the University of Callicrates where her professor was leading an audit of the cultural anomaly known as the Empire of Light and Conquest, a malignancy of complexity whose rapid influence over the face of this kindergarten had surprised so many.

I mourned, "My world is a joke. It is studied in school, by children. Our glories are insectile."

She replied, "All works are insectile. You cannot guess the true immensity and baffling complexity of the Everything. Your brain would bleed to imagine, and so would mine."

(It really puts things in perspective, when deities lament.)

My integration into the tribe continues. I have been assigned a totem and a spiritual animal buddy. I am learning all the moves for the big dance. I will be circumcised at the next solstice, which I admit I have mixed feelings about.

Around the fire I sometimes tell stories about my old life.

Like I said, I am viewed as a font but I do not flow freely. There are some things it is easier not to know. When I am lying on my back at night with the soft grass behind my head, surrounded by the murmurs of the jungle and the rustle of the sea, with a wife snuggled in on either side tightly, one or the other or both will ask, "Tell us, husband, what are the stars?"

I sigh. I squeeze them against against me. I breathe in the breeze. "They are wonder, my loves," I always reply. "Nothing but wonder."


Fin.


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IF YOU HAVE ENJOYED READING THIS STORY, PLEASE CONSIDER LEAVING A SMALL TIP. A PAYPAL ACCOUNT IS NOT REQUIRED. THANK YOU VERY MUCH. YOURS TRULY, C. BROWN.
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