Wednesday, 1 November 2017

A New Quest

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2015

Mercredi Singh’s next lifetime goal is to get blood from a stone. She had already achieved her first such goal, which was to become a famous writer. She self-publishes her short stories to passers-by in Newtown, Sydney, and has a small following there. She simply walks up and down Newtown’s main street of King Street proffering people her professionally printed, sixteen page wares for five dollars each. Those that bought from her were usually artists, or somehow artistic themselves, and were genuinely surprised by Mercredi’s original selling method a la busking. To Mercredi this method came naturally, as she had spent six months in travelling northern Queensland, having flown the family nest in so doing at the age of twenty-one, selling encyclopaedias from door to door. She was only six months at this job because she was eventually fired for not making any sales. Though she had made no sales she had developed a thick skin and naturally thought of selling her own books, in which she was more motivated to succeed rather than selling other peoples’ books. Unlike those in Queensland that never bought from her, those in Newtown that didn’t buy her self-published booklets were nevertheless encouraging, being impressed that a young writer was displaying such entrepreneurialness.
     Of those that were keen to buy two of them approached her one day, and told her that they considered her one of the Great Writers.
     ‘It’s so cool how you’re just willing to get out there and just slog away at getting recognised, shouldering your way into the public’s notice.’ This was said by the apparent youngest of them, a lass with green dreadlocks. She was accompanied by another lass with similarly dyed hair, though not in dreadlocks. ‘In fact Mel here and I have been getting our friends to read your little books. They also agree that you’re a real genius and one of them is studying your works for an English assignment at uni. Well at least the works of yours that we have. I’m Tasha, by the way.’
     ‘Nice to meet you both,’ replied Mercredi. ‘I also sell my booklets because it’s nice to chat with artists in passing.’
     ‘Do artists mainly buy your works?’ asked Mel.
     ‘So far. But I really don’t think I’m one of the Great Writers. I’m just a sales rep who got lucky with her hobby.’
     ‘No way!’ exclaimed both the ladies simultaneously. ‘Your work is so pithy, short but every word works so hard and does so much,’ said Tasha.
     ‘I even reckon you’re better than Dickens,’ chimed in Mel.
     ‘Yeah, compared to you he was verbose and long-winded.’
     Mercredi didn’t at first fully appreciate that she had won her way into the high esteem of a small crowd, that she was indeed a hero amongst them and consequently being seriously studied. Certainly it was a small fan base but they were also certainly ardent and quite likely to promote her further. Later at home she realised that she had actually achieved her dreams: she was technically a famous writer, adored for her literary acumen. Sure she was famous amongst only a small crowd, but from little things big things grow. Things were bound to blossom even further now. This deserved a celebration, an expensive bottle of wine that she bought with her day’s sales of fifty dollars. She drank it while dancing to the radio, for the first time imagining the real possibility of Greatness.
     Eventually then, after a celebration lasting several months, Mercredi found herself in the midst of the busy city of Sydney with nothing to aim for. She had achieved her consciously set life goal but now had nothing to inspire her. Sure, she could look around for a job, but she had always wanted to devote her own life to her own projects.
     Pondering her conundrum one evening, in the midst of Sydney’s wet autumn of 2015, she understood that she needed a new quest, but the wine was failing to inspire. Should her new life goal be artistic? Should she travel down a path that would complement her natural talents? Well, assuredly, but then again trying something never tried before would give her a real sense of achievement once she had mastered its nature. Maybe she should apply for a science degree? The world was full of serious problems and one of them could lay the path for Mercredi to build upon her fame. Yet such a new path failed to present itself, despite the Shiraz.
     ‘This is like getting blood from a stone,’ she thought despondently.
     And thus began Mercredi’s refreshing mission. If she could get blood from a stone then all apparent paradoxes would submissively lay at her feet. Getting blood from a stone would give her the perspective to solve other impossibilities, and the resultant fame would allow her name to ring throughout history. She may well not need her unemployment welfare anymore, revelling instead in money that poured in through the application of her stunning mind.
     But where to start? She would need a stone. And a knife. So she gathered them together on her coffee table, and was half expecting the stone to split open in bloody fragments. But nothing doing, of course.
     She began staring at them knowing full well that if she applied the knife to the small rock she would be rebuffed. She briefly considered doing it the other way around, applying the small rock against the sharp knife, but instinctively felt that she couldn’t trick the Universe that way, giving her what she sought, the ability to turn the impossible into the practical.
     ‘Why a sharp knife,’ she suddenly asked herself. Surely a blunt butter knife would equally serve to unleash the crimson deep within the rock, or the possible crimson deep within the rock? Of course the blood was in there, blood and stone being essentially two halves of the same coin, both opposites of each other and therefore mutually dependant. Maybe a blunt butter knife applied to the rock in the garden was the key? That way the rock would be more amongst its natural elements and thus more willing to accede to Mercredi’s crazy ambition. Maybe.
     ‘Have to start somewhere though, and may as well start now.’ She tried to cut the stone. Causing only a scraping noise.
     She gave up for the day, and returned to her laptop, vaguely hoping that creating a new character might have some answers. And if s/he didn’t Mercredi suspected that cementing her recent literary fame was probably the only reasonable path to acquiring a new life-goal, albeit an indirect path.

*

Mercredi eventually realised, after two months of persistence, that she had bitten off more than she could chew. She has asked her friends’ advice on her current life-goal, but to no avail. Although one friend, Derrick, had told her that she obviously needs to think outside the box.
     She considered that more deeply now, alone in her flat again, and realised that she was considering the stone in isolation. What about its environment? Surely its interconnectedness should be taken into account? After all we all live in an interrelationship with our environs so obviously the same must be true of the stone.
     Accordingly, seeing herself as part of the stone’ s environs, just as much as its environs were a part of her, Mercredi took the knife and pricked the end of her thumb. She squeezed a droplet of blood out onto the stone’s craggy surface and felt at harmony with the Universe. Her blood clung to the rough surface of the stone and she squeezed enough of her blood onto it so that a little rivulet was formed, spilling onto the coffee table. Mercredi smiled in ecstasy, somehow feeling the tingle in her left thumb as the beginning of an immense hug that would always be with her, or at least easily accessible. She had, technically, drawn blood from a stone, as well as proving to herself that she is capable of anything.
     But what was there left to do now? What was there to motivate her out of bed every morning? Surely she was not bound to be perpetually chasing phantoms, perpetually seeking justification for living, always needing something bigger than her? Mercredi feared that that was just what was in fact happening.
     Only her writing, Mercredi felt, still proving to be a success, was the only natural thing that brought her true satisfaction. Why not harness it, go with the flow? She had continued her busking throughout her attempts to get blood from a stone, hoping that in thus keeping her mind distracted her subconscious would eventually come up with a solution to her problem. And maybe if she were to work harder she could start earning some serious money. Not that the money was the be-all, but it certainly helped.

     Mercredi, like a lover returned, felt reinvigorated to be back at her laptop creating other worlds and envisioning the stretches of glory that were already laid about her feet. Her new life goal is an adaptation of her original one, attempting to create a fully-fledged story in only one page. She fully expects to become even more famous by selling her sixteen page booklets all over Sydney, booklets with sixteen short stories for the reasonable price of only five dollars. Who knows, perhaps this was the beginning of a dynasty? It was certainly possible.

~~~

If you have been enjoying Fitzpatrick's stories here you may also enjoy his short story collections, and other books, available online as both Kindle books and paperbacks (go to http://amzn.to/1NfodtN). Other ebook and paperback options are available at  http://bit.ly/1UsyvKD Fitzpatrick is also having a collection of short stories, Aberrant Selected, published by Waldorf Publishing in 2018. You can follow its journey at www.aberrantselected.blogspot.com

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