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Essay-a-week

Mustard seeds

Silly old me. I cannot appreciate movies because the appreciation goes to the wrong place. You can bet your ass that when it comes to the silver screen, the fame and fortune always goes to some actor Joe Blow. He’s got a great smile. Killer abs. Solves most of the worlds problems all under one hour and thirty minutes. Awesome. But my problem with that is that this Joe will just spend the money blowing some other Joe’s blow or simply blowing some other Joe. Unfortunately for me, I like my Joes blowless, so to speak.

It isn’t Joe’s fault though for absorbing the attention, for it is not the actor that makes the movie. That’s a common misconception. Joe blow doesn’t matter in hell. To be fair to our buddy Joe, it isn’t even the director who makes a movie. The director, the actors, and the whole whack of studio set up are all indebted to something more powerful than themselves. Folks, I’m talking about black gold. It is the blood of every show and movie. Only with it can the moving picture truly move. Get the jazz hands ready. I’m talkin’ screenplay baby, the stuff movies are made of.

All great movies begin with great words. They are the first steps in the long journey of movie greatness. Green Mile would be but a diamond hidden in the mud without Stephen King. Schindler’s list wouldn’t be where it was now without that list (bad joke, I know).

But so what? Well, to me, the greatest movie I have ever seen is a flicker of words projecting off in my head. It comes and goes. It is 3-D without the glasses. Popping without the popcorn. Actors without the acting. It is imagination. Pure and simple. It comprises all the sentiments I could ever feel for a movie, whether anger, humour, happiness, or sadness. So this week, I will cop out simply because I feel I cannot talk about movies confidently without betraying the words that make them great. I can, however, talk about imagination. So here’s to the imagination of one, using the words for the movies playing around in his head, some better than others, some worse, and some not at all. Better get the extra large popcorn. This is one looks good. Or at least, the preview did.

*

No one can tell me that the human race is kind. I mean sure: we belong to mankind, but man, are we anything but kind. Listen. It happened on December 19th. I try to reason through it every day, but I can’t. I tried to talk to my parents about it, but it doesn’t help that when they close my door, I hear them uttering, “This world has past us by. Remember the Golden days?” But somewhere in between the whiteness of my walls and the muddled voices regretting their existence, I want to ask them, “What Golden days? Humanity has always screwed up since day one. “

My parent’s weren’t always like that: all darkness and gloom and apocalyptic like. Pa especially. I remember his face used to be made from flexible flesh, not worn leather. Now he has a neck that is warped like a corkscrew, probably from always looking at life flickering by and spanking him in the butt. That’s how he said he got hemorrhoids. “Life: it is the cause of all disease,” he says.

His “regretting existence lifestance”, if you can call it that, gets so bad that his once elastic skin is now drooping over like an elephant, where his successes and failures are measured in the number wrinkles etched on his body. On top of it all, he counts his life in how many months he has left. Pa grumbles, “159 more to go.” A mere 13.25 years. To me, that’s a lifetime. To him, that’s a deathtime.

It’s weird that as an adult, the world wilts away from your eyes. Ain’t life supposed to cycle between birth to 13.25 years as something nonexistence, a time too large to note? And yet, when time ticks away from adolescence to maturity, maturity to marriage, and finally, marriage to parenthood, one’s life whisks on decade by decade, until, they whisk no more. Blink, and you’ll miss it. I’ve blinked twice writing this, so I guess to Pa now that he is a fossil. 13.25 years is like a trip to the bathroom and maybe back.

Both my parents got so hung up about dying that they even stopped going to Church. It’s like their world ended and the Apocalypse already happened but Jesus forgot about them or something. They said they thought they heard trumpets, but it was just that darn computer again, buzzing a language they didn’t understand.

I should say though that my parents wouldn’t be forgotten and all, assuming the Apocalypse did happen and Jesus came and went again. They’re really nice people. Wouldn’t even hurt a fly, unless of course, that fly had it coming to him. Maybe that fly would be spreading some disease or something like that. Then I guess my parents would probably hurt him. But if they think it’s God’s will, like that time at the cottage where the mosquito bit old Uncle Jimmy because he was an atheist and he got so red and bumpy that he was in the hospital for weeks and my parent’s said he got what was coming for him, then it’s alright I guess. “You can’t bet on much,” Pa said. “Only that God will always win.” So if some fly was whizzing around, my parent’s would decide if it’s God’s will or not. Hopefully they’d tell me before I go on and whack it silly.

But ya. That Jesus character. I mean, I don’t think he’d leave my parents like that, even if they somehow weren’t fit to go to Heaven. He’s got some nice stories written about him in the Bible, or so I am told. I never finished it fully. Too many pages, but Ma tells me all about it. I’ll get to reading it eventually. I tried once and skipped some of the Old Testament stuff. Gave me nightmares. I went to the New Testament and I actually was reading the Mustard Seed a little while back, and phew, that’s some nice stuff in there. Ma was totally right. A big ol’ wind tossing around seeds like it’s nothing. Some seeds going this way, some that. Some landing in little cracks and dying in the soil while others land in the nice fertile bit. Who’da known that some seeds were meant to die? That God put them on this Earth only to be whistled away someplace where they’d never have a chance in hell to live. Some things you just learn in the Bible. I guess that’s what happened to me. Well not the learning part, but the dying. I was a seed caught in the little crack we call a life, that little inch of air between being nothing and dying.

As I said, it started on December 19th. I woke up one morning to find that I was almost eight years old. Somehow the age just snuck up on me. Don’t know how. Before it happened, the days were always five hundred years long and life was without a worry. I don’t remember those days swimming by me though. I think back to it now and all I see is green and feel warm inside. Pa always says things like that never leave you. “I know Pa.” I say back. He’s wearing a green shirt most of the time.

When I woke up to find I was eight years old, Pa, in his green shirt, loomed over my bed. He stared deep into my sleepfully stapled eyes. “I know Grandma is waiting for me with open arms,” he said, “and her Mommy and Daddy too.” Those were the first words I remember, oddly enough. They were reassuring words for some reason or another. I guess it is because waking up and finding out your eight-years-old is troubling. Only a few years more and I’d be kicking the bucket and talking about dead people. But it is weird. Why couldn’t I remember “Grandma”? Apparently, when I was sleeping, naïve to this world, she died. Her face wasn’t green, so I guess I didn’t have a chance to remember her. Human skin is only green when its poisoned. I guess Grandma didn’t get poisoned. Too bad. I might’ve remembered her.

Pa told me about her in my next moments of wakefulness. “She sold her house. She was feeble and afraid. She died happy. She asked where you were. I couldn’t tell her you were playing in the grass outside her house. She would’ve died sad. But one thing ‘Nam said to me was about Heaven and how you’d be there regardless.” I gulped. The first five minutes of my now eight year old existence were filled with him talking a good deal about Heaven. I knew nothing at all about the subject. I assumed that when people were dead they were dead. I thought they’d be asleep like me, only to wake up again.

As I found out though, Heaven is a Hawaiian resort. “Manicured fairways and greens running down a lukewarm ocean. Angels helping you with whatever you need. People dancing. Sun all day long.” My first words were, “It sure sounds like a place where people would drink a lot of lemonade.”

“I love lemonade,” he replied. I guess Pa was ready to die. Maybe he wanted to see Grandma. I am not sure. But now that I was eight, I realized that Earth was no Hawaiian resort. In fact, it’s pretty bad. Kids playing in the grass while their Grandma dies in the next room. Some world.

Although, if you ask me about Heaven during those few moments of being an eight year old, I’dda tell you that Heaven sounded like a doctor’s clinic. All there was to do was to wait around for more people to dance with. And if you got tired, well, what do you do? Forever is a very long time. I don’t think my dancing feet are that strong.

But I didn’t say anything. Pa was sad about Grandma, so why make him sadder? So I said, “Grandma is in a nice place. Real nice. I hope I go there soon.” He said, “We will. I got a plan that’ll put us right there in front of the gates.” Oh boy. Here I was, only eight, and going to go to Heaven someday soon. Some people had to wait their entire lives just to die. I was going to be on the first plane out, somehow.

After another year of talking, waiting, and practicing my dance moves for Heaven, I was nine. I don’t know what happened to that year either. I just remember talking about Heaven with Pa and waking up on December 19th. Then a year later, I was still waiting to die and all. Turns out breathing only makes you wait longer. Pa never told me that or his plan as a matter of fact. I do remember spending a few days though trying to hold my breath in attempt to kill myself to make Pa proud, but I could never die. It always made me sad to look in the mirror and see my face as blue as a raspberry, only to have it flicker back to white again.

Too be honest though, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to die. I’m one of those very cowardly guys, all bark and no bite. I try not to show it, but I am. For instance, if I found out that my brother had stolen something of mine, I’d stamp on into his room like a raging bull. He’d look all sullen but say he didn’t know what I was talking about. I’d just stare at him and want to hit him so bad but I’d leave no different than I entered.

Goddamn.

I’d ask Pa why I was aging so quickly, why I was so yellow, and why I wasn’t dead yet. Pa would only say to me, “That’s life. We live only to die.” And those were the rules. “The Game of Life.” he’d add. To him, life is a game that one plays according to the rules it gives you. We start the game involuntary. Thrust into a world we don’t know, forced to breath this unknown air and eat its unknown food simply because we have to. Then we are raised in the image of what our parents want, not what we want, because hell, we just started playing the game, so what do we know? I got no complaints though. Pa and Ma made me play this game mighty fine.

But I got to thinking that it’s a pretty bad game. Everyone loses eventually and some lose much quicker than that: every hand they play is a losing hand, and they have a gambling addiction, and they just want to play one more time to change their bad luck. It’s a crap-shoot kinda’ game. My friend Jason knows all about it. Ain’t got nothing in the world. But he’s always stupidly smiling, saying, “Ain’t owww nutin tooo nuubuudii nuu huuww.” I don’t understand a word he’s saying, but I know it ain’t fair that life rolled its dice on him. I mean his pot was taken away from him before he even had a chance to roll. Some disease he got ’cause his parents were old when they had him. I don’t know much though. Maybe at the end of my game, I can tell ya’ how to play it.

Regardless of whatever losing hand Jason is drawing now, I was caught in between all that thinking, trying to die, and playing life’s game according to its rules. Then, somehow, during it all, I turned twenty-two. Like all the other years, don’t ask me how it happened. I couldn’t tell ya. Even if I could though, I don’t think I’d want to. No fun in talking about stuff like that, stuff that happens to everyone; stuff that, in the scheme of the Universe, means as much as a bird does to a whale. However when I clocked that number in, some numbers clocked out. Ma died somewhere in between my ninth year of existence and the twenty second. I ain’t quite sure how it happened. Pa told me after I realized I was twenty-two. I’d like to think that maybe Pa told her the plan to die and she listened. All Pa said was that she was making a cake for my 16th birthday and she died right there on the kitchen table. Brain amorism or something like that. Quick death. Painless, the doctors said. That’s nice. Didn’t take long for the funeral either or so I’m told. After the funeral, Pa and I ate the unfinished cake at the table where she died. The cake tasted pretty good too. Don’t remember Ma’s funeral though. But that cake had strawberry filling. My favourite. Ma was always good at remembering those kind of things.

Anyways, I do remember one thing and it’s why I am writing this down. A 22 year old has a lot to say. Most of it isn’t important, but man, is it a lot. One word of advice, always keep your chin down. Don’t believe any of the other fluff you hear. With a chin glued to the cement, you can bump into something, and hey, you might just bump into something interesting. If your eyes are up all the time, well, you might miss what’s at your toes. I learned that the hard way. I told you this story started on December 19th and that life passed me by pretty quick and that Pa said he had a plan to take me from this world and that Jesus was a nice guy. Well ya. Here’s the connection. Make sure you get this down.

So here I am 22 years old, with no idea where my life has gone, and I find myself in an Easter Pageant. I don’t know much about Pageants, but them walls were coloured extra funny: green splashed along yellow, red dotted with purple, and so on until all the colours of the rainbow became sloshed together in some slurry straight from an elementary school nightmare. Funny thing though was this Pageant turned out to be at an elementary school. So, I guess the chaos went well with the environment. With kids screaming until their lungs dried out, such a miss mash of colours went unnoticed.

Why I was there? Not too sure. My head was up though. My chin was always up like a mountain stuck on a man’s face. Pa told me to be proud. “Never let your head droop.” Unlike his skin, I guess. Unlike my advice, I know.

With my head held high, I was acting the role of Jesus; that guy I was telling you about earlier. Remember, he’s a really nice guy. Remember those mustard seeds? Well here I was telling this mustard seed story to all the people on stage with the audience following along and all of a sudden, I get a warning that I would be arrested for just talking! Flabbing my mouth. You probably already know the story without me going on. I mean it is the greatest one ever written. If you don’t, then where have you been for the last 2000 years? Even kids know about Jesus. Maybe it’s ‘cause their parents teach them and raise them Catholic. I don’t think so. Them kids are Catholic. They pray and everything. Some pray for dogs to be bought for a birthday, some pray for their dogs to have their day, and some pray that they wouldn’t be treated like dogs. This one little girl did that a lot. The other kids always said, “You’re a mutt” whenever they saw her. Then they’d run off barking mad. But this girl was beautiful. If she was a dog, and had a bark because of it, well then she was also like a tree because goddamn, one day she’d grow to be pretty. Until then, the stupid little insults would feed her like water.

Oh. Was I digressing? Oh. Sorry. I ain’t got much time left, and here I am still trying to pull my pants on telling you about my life. I think it’s nice though, digressing and all. I start talking about a Pageant and get to a story about a little girl being the most beautiful thing you darn ever did see, and hey, you’d never know about perfection unless I digressed. Maybe that’s a bad thing, maybe it’s not. I think it’s bad to be too focused and all. I dunno though. I’m only 22. I still gots’ lots to learn, but I won’t get the chance. That’s the game of life though. You play to lose.

So ya, the Easter Pageant. After that whole incident maps itself out, I pray and I pray and I pray for God to do something for me, send me a sign, help me out here. I am his son, for Christ’s sake. But like the story goes, all that happens is I’m betrayed. Then I see someone washing their hands in invisible water, some other guy helping me carry a Styrofoam cross, and I die, wondering why the world is so cruel, a world that I created, a world where my mother weeps at my feet, a world where I waited so many years to free from sin, a world that when I left, still has the chance to sin again. A dying man’s got a lot to wonder about. A dying actor even more. He’s got his lines.

And here’s when it gets good. All of a sudden, I close my eyes, and I am lingering on my last few heartbeats. On that stage, with the spotlight on my figure, outlining a divine silhouette of a man carved from dust, I take my last wheezing dustbag of a breath. Then, bang. Dead. I fake die. Immediately all these angels start coming from the sides of the stage, chanting some song and everywhere there are guys carrying crucifixes and stuff in circular boxes, and the whole bunch of them come around me singing some song I don’t know. They’re going mad, peeping and hollering the lyrics loud enough so God would hear them. Everyone in the audience is crying cause it’s so goddamn beautiful, so goddamn religious. And I’m in the center of it all, not saying one word.

But to be honest, now that I think about it, there ain’t nothing religious about it. Just a bunch of people singing and flailing crosses everywhere. Jesus wouldn’t have liked all that noise. Maybe I’m being sacrilegious or whatever. But I think Jesus would’ve liked me there, on the cross and dead, making everyone cry by being silent. I probably looked just like Him. Helpless and human.

I guess it was so beautiful that God decided to send me an unscripted sign. He probably ain’t seen anything so beautiful since he created Paradise, and that’s supposed to be blocked from humanity here on earth, so all of a sudden, a stage light fell from the ceiling. It landed right in the middle of the stage. It crushed me and the little girl that would’ve grown to be a tree. She died right on the spot; a little mustard seed in the crack. I, on the other hand, was meant to have my first real taste of blood, no props or paint required.

But like all things, it just got worse. I wonder if God meant it to happen. Pa would probably say, “God always wins.” And God was certainly taking the spoils of my victory cause even now, the blood is coming out so bad that the doctors have all left me alone in my room. My family even left so I could get some peace or something. I can still hear them muttering outside. They’re saying how the world has past them by and stuff. I guess the Pageant past me too. That doesn’t matter though. It’ll go on again without me next year I guess.

So that’s all I had to say. Ain’t much, but since I am probably going to die soon enough, I figure it’s alright. Something funny though. The doctor’s say that my lungs are squished like grapes. That’s nice. I was 70 percent water, and now I’m turning it into wine like the real Jesus. I think it’d be a nice gag if they could make wine from my body like His. Then all people can enjoy it because now I am finally understand Pa’s unspoken plan: we are here to help each other out through the cracks of cement. Whether the wind blows our way our not, we can’t help it, but if we can grow or something, that’d be nice.

So I guess what I’m saying is, sprinkle my ashes into some wine. I’m sure I’ll taste good. Maybe like rotten mustard.

About kacperniburski

I am searching for something in between the letters. Follow my wordpress or my IG (@_kenkan)

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