[As August 2009 marks the close of our eighth year of weekly publication, we shall spend this month enjoying "the blast from the past" with selections from Poor Mojo's Almanac(k): Year Two (issues 51-100). Please, enjoy!—Your Giant Squid, Editor-in-Chief, PMjA]
[originally published in issue #90]
Hello Dave, Fritz:
We found more letters in the branch libraries. We've also been pouring through microfiche in the stacks trying to get more info on these authors, but no real luck yet. We'll keep you posted.
Riley and Morgan
Once upon a time there was a servant boy who wanted to be more than just a servant boy. His parents were laborers, and their parents too had been laborers. They all lived in a village of laborers, just south of Chicago.
His laborer parents knew that he wasn't suited for servant work, so instead of the meat and cabbage and potatoes that the other children ate, he was fed a steady diet of tales and stories. Unlike most food, which fills your belly and satisfies your hunger, his meals left his belly empty and made him yearn more.
When he was old enough, he packed his things and left for university, hoping to slate his hunger for stories. But it only grew worse. He found ways to stop thinking about the hunger: he discovered alcohol and sex and menial labor. But when he woke the next day the hunger always returned worse than before.
One day he heard of a fairy-tale land that lay far to the west. And he traveled at once.
In this land was a warrior-maiden. She had fought many battles, and would fight many more before she lay down her sword. She had vanquished armies, toppled empires, seduced queens and pillaged gold from a dragon's hoard. But she found herself growing increasingly bored with the adventure-work.
One day, while reading in a cafe the servant boy met the warrior-maiden. He was buying coffee, and she a roast drumstick. She knocked into him and he spilt his drink upon her. They began to talk.
He began to poor forth stories, all of them truer than fantasy and more fantastic than the truth. And she, in return, told him of her exploits: of sailing on the back of a giant starfish; of riding to the moon on a kite made of child's breath; of the treachery of kings. And they became each other's Scherazade. As long as the stories lasted, they knew they were invincible. His hunger abated. Her melancholy turned to joy.
They paced themselves: only one story each a day. This way their love would last a very long time.
She had been adventuring for nearly a dozen years, you see and had a tale for every day she had been alive. And his parents had seen his future, had known his strengths and had raised him on a steady and constant diet of fabulation and narrative. Together the two of them could maybe last happily ever after.
Once upon a time (our heroine hears these magic words and a calm settles over her heart) there was a little girl who grew up in a forest. A graceful pixie child, she ran fleet-footed in the branches of the trees, chasing her brothers and sisters. She made crowns of daisies and dandelions. She and her friends built boats and tried to sail across the lake in the very heart of the forest (though the waters quickly gobbled up the flimsy little craft as if some fearsome monster lived in the deep and craved a lunch of brave girl children) then went back to their drawing board, which was a damp stretch of sand in combination with pointy sticks.
The constant state of fantasy, high adventure, romance and imagination in which she lived filled the little girl's infinite heart for many years.
Before long, however, the colder and more banal realities of the world began to intrude. The girl found it harder and harder to believe that she was really born on Venus, or that she was an Indian princess on a desperate quest to rescue her sister from the bad guys, or that she was an orphan whose cleverness and pure soul would save her in the end from a cruel head mistress. The orderliness of school, the day in, day out, the single-file lines, the schedules, the dreary slush-filled busses curbed her wild mind bit by bit. She learned to sit still and pay attention. Eventually she learned to do her schoolwork. After a few years, she actually grew to prefer these formerly alien activities to dashing madly through the woods like some crazed priestess in pursuit of the sacrificial god.
The gradual loss of her imaginary world left her with a vague ache of emptiness. Only two things could fill this absence: reading a good book or falling in love. For her, the emotions, the level of belief, the dreaming was the same. She fell in love with characters and worlds and stories, pined away for them when they were over. The Robber's Daughter, the Egypt Game, the Whipping Boy, the Dawn Treader and more, endlessly more stories she devoured with an addicted frenzy.
It wasn't enough. When the little girl turned fifteen, she decided she needed real love. The books (fat stacks of them each week) weren't satisfying. Even with all the extra stories (soft worn paperbacks hidden under her desk at school) her world was not enough to fill her. She needed someone else's world to overlap with hers, give her a continuous intimate communication with another mind. It was the only way.
But who would love her? She had become a quiet, bookish, mousy girl, shier than her friends were. She had almost perfected the art of ghosting through her life unnoticed for the purpose of satisfying her illicit reading habit. The children she'd grown up with thought her strange. No one knew her secrets.
She decided she would have to leave home. With a distant ache in her heart, she said goodbye to the trees and the deep lake, the broad fields of wildflowers and the fresh deer tracks in the spring mud. She wrote a careful letter to her family, packed a bag and walked away in the darkness of a new moon night, trying to remember her warrior ways. (She made sure to return to her family once a year at midsummer, to celebrate the longest days the earth could offer with ghost-man baseball and vigilant all-night bonfires, which were leapt whoopingly by everyone.)
The little girl (all grown up now) had ten thousand adventures all over the world. And everywhere she went, she left a scrap of story hidden along the trail. She imagined that someday, someone would find them, and follow her. Each morning she woke to the new sun, picturing her true love curled in dusty travel gear at the foot of her bed.
Each morning, there was no one there. (Except for the occasional assassin, dead with her dagger in his or her throat. She never remembered waking, flinging the blade.)
One day she reached the City at the End of the World. Though she had wandered long and far, and seen cities large and small, beautiful and desolate, she had never seen a city like this. Maybe here, she thought, where houses are stacked onto hills and streets disregard the effects of gravity, where grown men walk the neighborhoods in costume and poets yawp from rooftops, maybe here I will find love.
Legend has it that she did, of course. However, there is no hard evidence, and only a handful of her thousands of bait-stories remain. We can never know for sure, but you may certainly guess what your humble chronicler believes.
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