Ravens and Pinecones


They climbed the stairs of the high school stage and Dominic went to the microphone.  He blew in it.  It caused instant feedback that hurt everyone’s ears.  “Is this thing-” He was too close.  The audience covered their ears.  Too much feedback.  He backed up.  “-Is this thing on?”

            “We’re hearing you loud and clear Dominic,” said Larry Lemay.  Dominic pumped his head Larry’s way.

            “Ravens and Pinecones,” Dominic said leaning into the microphone.  He used a placid tone for the greeting to his piece.  He cleared his throat.  He stepped back from the microphone.  He rolled his shoulders back with his hands held out.  He stepped up to the microphone with a vacant expression.  His hands hovered over the microphone in an action similar to that which the backside of a magnet has on the backside of another magnet.  He then gripped the microphone in a fashion so intense it caused the veins in his arms to appear.  “I scream at pinecones.  Just to get a reaction.  Just to feel something.”  He released the microphone and backed away, as if the intensity of the moment overpowered him.  He measured the crowd.  He soaked in each set of eyes.  He stepped forward:

            “Death!  Ravens sipping from a puddle of what remains of the worst storm between God and man,” these words were issued in Dominic’s best seething whisper.  “Run Abner!  Run!  He would know.  He would run.  He would run through the snow of Armageddon’s winter as if it was buttered corn stuck to his face until the roaches and squirrels could lick it off his embittered corpse.”  He stepped back.  His face contorted to that of a funk groove delivered.  There was no reaction.  Eyes were wide in the audience, expressions were tightened with confusion, and others had expressions that could only be described as concern.  Dominic held the expression for another beat:

            “Infants roll through the fire end over end like tumbleweed through a desert.”  He dropped the whisper.  In its place, was a voice that sprang from his diaphragm.  “The proselytization of provocative plumbers. Junipers sucking on angel dust.”  Again, he gripped the microphone with intensity.  The microphone remained in its housing for another moment, and then he ripped it free: “FLOODS!  Canoes; Paddles; Houses half under water.  Naked Episcopalians bobbing in the water, like short, bespectled Jewish men searching for a seat in a theater.  A gestating embryo eats their twin and dances a victory dance on the acidic remnants of their chemical romance.  Birth!”  He then threw the microphone to the floor and sat next to Michalas.

            “That’s the shit I’m talking about,” Jarvis Sweeney said standing.  “I’m not going to have anything to do with this weird artsy crap.”  Jarvis turned on a heel and exited.  Seeing Jarvis leave like that created a silent tension.  Two others stood and worked their way past the legs in the aisle to follow Jarvis.

            “The hell did you do that for?” Michalas whispered to Dominic.

            “Some of the times,” Dominic replied, “you have to disembowel yourself, or you’ll never free up the space necessary for spiritual growth.”

            “No one knows what you’re talking about Dominic,” Michalas whispered, “you’re scaring them.”

            Dominic would’ve loved to provide Michalas with an immunity card.  He would’ve loved to explain it all to him, but when the zone hit Dominic he lived by the ‘No one gets out of here alive’ philosophy.

            Then it happened, two people stood and began a slow clap.  They stood almost simultaneously and began clapping.  Some others followed.  One of them had tears of appreciation in his eye.

            It was the complicated nihilism that people wanted to declare they appreciated with their applause, even if that nihilism was meaningless.  They loved the strident nature, the rhythm, the passion, and most importantly the idea that they understood.  If they didn’t understand, they wanted their neighbor to think they did.  If they didn’t understand, they wanted to think they did.  Nihilism, of this sort, was usually delivered by some half-wit who had done just enough research to make it seem like they knew what they were delivering.  Most listeners lose focus about halfway through any oration, and the substance is usually replaced by either passion or a strident nature.  Nihilism, of this sort, usually involves symbolism over substance, and if someone can deliver good symbolism in a rhythmic cadence, he can usually win over a crowd regardless what he says.  It’s usually gobbeldy gook that some teen wrote between reality shows, but people cheer him, because they want to be the only ones who get it.

            The true humor arrives when those people stand and cheer and cry a little, and they develop this little psychological ploy against the others that don’t get it.  It’s similar to the reactions reference comedians get.  Very few of the audience members understand every reference comedians make, but they laugh.  If the reference is delivered in an intelligent rhythm, and with a suitable cadence, people will laugh about anything.  ‘What do you mean you don’t get it?’ one friend asks another.  ‘What are you stupid?’  You can bet a bundle that that other friend will be laughing at the next reference.

            Dominic decided that if he did a reading of this sort again, he would include a mocking reference about Nicholas II with a reference that has nothing to do with the Russian Czar to see if people will laugh.  He kicked himself for not thinking of it sooner.

            “You’re going to get yours on the back end,” Michalas said when the clappers sat.  Dominic rolled his eyes.  Michalas was speaking about the karmic payment Dominic would receive for messing with the peoples’ heads.  It had been Dominic’s experience that no such karma exists.

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