“I began to conclude that I might well be one of those ancillary characters that God keeps in the wings. A character with many quirks and twists who is ushered onto stage to deliver a few lines and wanders off with little fanfare.” Cusper Lynn
The Occidental Ape
by Cusper Lynn
SARASOTA Florida—(Weekly Hubris)—9/24/2012—The bailiff, an affable man of imposing proportions, looked in my direction. The judge expressed her disbelief and the attorney remained professional, though not entirely plausible, in her protestations that these last-minute filings were entirely unforeseen and, sadly, unavoidable.
“Mr. Lynn, do you wish to offer any statement or observation?” the judge asked.
I rose and addressed the court. “Regarding the matter that will not be heard here today or the filings in which counsel is claiming fraud and coercion?”
“Either,” the judge offered, magnanimously (she was really quite perturbed with the respondent and counsel).
“Your Honor, as a claim of fraud and coercion has been filed, I can only say that I will oppose any motion for future telephonic appearance by the respondent and require the respondent’s appearance and presence in court for all future proceedings,” I said.
“Yes,” the judge said, acknowledging my statement, and we were then given leave.
The bailiff’s gaze, which had remained fixed on me, went from the high vigilance that a professional of his experience of the family courts develops, to a slightly more relaxed and appreciative look. He, like everyone else in court that day, was largely disinterested in my case, my circumstances or the implications of the brief hearing.
But, like everyone else present—including respondent’s counsel—he was pleased to see I was neither surprised nor outraged. But then again, how could I be? It was just another predictable event in the ongoing saga of DeAnn Cadwallader-Lynn, whose vindictive and narcissistic tantrums are so predictable you can set your clock by them.
As I left the court, I felt very calm and thankful at the arrival, once again, of competent legal counsel to represent my ex. It really had been very trying to be obliged to work with DeAnn directly. But poverty and the general jurisprudence of family law required I try to, so I had. The idea of the two of us before a judge, once again, and neither of us with legal counsel, was not something I had looked forward to.
For my part, I was confident that I would place my spectacular ignorance of vast areas of family law on display to my personal disadvantage during the course of the hearing. But that did not trouble me in the least. The more pressing concern I had was of “DeAnn Unplugged,” live and in concert. With legal counsel, DeAnn had enraged a judge and caused at least one attorney to be rendered speechless. Without an attorney, it was far from clear what sort of circus I would be subjected to.
Why, you might wonder, should it matter to me what she might say or do in court?
The answer is it is the embarrassment of the continued association. Watching a judge wince, scowl and repeatedly caution my ex and then have to order her to be silent was not something I wanted to see. Because at some level I know, that for judges, those moments further erode any remaining vestiges of faith they have in sanity, civility or humanity. Then of course there are those looks from the clerk of the court, the court reporter and the bailiff. When they give you the “you poor son-of-bitch” look as they suffer through DeAnn at her finest and you know what they really mean is, “You were married to her?”
And being under oath, were the question submitted, the grudging answer would be, “Yes, Your Honor. I was.”
So, as I said, legal counsel’s timely arrival spared me a DeAnn monologue and all it cost me was an allegation of Fraud and Coercion; on the whole a small price to pay. So I made some phone calls, gave up all hope of ever paying any bill on time again, and turned the matter over to an attorney and considered how to spend an unpaid day off.
Seventy-five cents can provide a great deal of entertainment if you have a nearby library with a “Friends of the Library” store. Thumbing through what were discarded or donated books the librarian deemed not worthy of shelving, I found two audiobooks and a hardback. As these were in the “thrift” section—for those of us unwilling to part with an entire dollar for a single book—I received back a quarter as change from the dollar I had proffered. Then I went and found a bench in the park on which to sit and read.
It is during these times of simple distraction that my mind wanders to the historical influences on the personifications of God.
My mind was, I must admit, under the drowsy influence of the afternoon sun and a history of the French Revolution, when these present thoughts were formed. But it seemed to me that God was at all times what humanity was or had been.
When we hunted and gathered, God was provider and prey. When we farmed, God comprised the elements and the seasons. When they were kings and tyrants, then God was king and king-maker.
So it occurred to me that, were all these archaic historical vestiges of God banished from human memory, God would rise again.
For the plumber, God would be the perpetual leak; for lawyers, God would be judge, jury and plaintiff —humanity, if properly insured would be the defendant—and so forth. God or gods would always be manifested thus, relative to life’s labors, professions, references and obsessions.
So I considered the question of God as the great author.
The concept is far from new. The various sacred books being books, of course, demanded a reference to God as “the author.” What scribe could possibly avoid sliding that one in?
That said, I had to assess my life and wonder where, in the relative order of things, I fit in?
Clearly I was not a leading character. No great and grand political or financial urges drove me and, based on my observation of my life thus far, I did not embody a moral lesson. But if I were not in these categories, I was also not one of God’s more vague bits of writing. I wasn’t the “others” whose presence is required solely as nameless wallpaper for the larger-scale events in God’s great “through line.”
No, I was more three-dimensional than wallpaper.
I began to conclude that I might well be one of those ancillary characters God keeps in the wings. A character with many quirks and twists who is ushered onto stage to deliver a few lines and wanders off with little fanfare. But, this being “God the Author,” not “God the Playwright,” I was not standing in the wings. Instead, I was being left in this minor dramedy whose events were becoming so repetitious that they were no longer even sustaining my interest. While God the Author had, of late, written into my narrative profound love and happiness—in the form of a wonderful fiancée—it seemed to me that God might be losing the thread of both my own and the larger narrative.
This thought occurred to me as a startling shock. It appeared that I had struck upon something fundamental about the nature of reality. Niggling observations of my daily life were suddenly thrust before me and little peculiarities were suddenly plot holes, weak premises and poorly developed scenery.
For example, I had gone to get a haircut. As a story point, it was boring, did not advance the narrative and would seem to be one of those trivial events we know fictional characters must perform at some time, yet we rarely read about unless there is some plot exposition involved.
So, the only significance I could find in the fact that I had gone to get a haircut, was that it was for going to court and my fiancée had insisted. The problem was that getting the haircut meant going to the barber. The barber shop I had recently found was an implausible little place, located off a side street and sandwiched between a chiropractic office and a pet groomer. The last time I’d been there, I’d noted the absence of vehicles in the parking lot. As if in response to this observation, of an under-developed narrative, on this occasion there were several vehicles.
I parked, went to the barber shop and found it . . . empty. This did not come as a shock, per se. But given the cars, the “Open” sign, the absence of any significant commerce in the adjacent units and the hour, there should have been . . . someone else there.
Even the sounds of running water in a bathroom would have made sense. This scene, as written, would, for readers, mirror the poor economy, introduce a struggling business person, offer up the exchange of life stories over a trim.
But there was no one there. No waiting customer, and no barber. Was this meant to be a mystery? I was considering leaving when a slightly odd thrill caused me to pause—at the time I assumed it was due to some slight noise or distraction—and I turned to find the barber rising from the customer bench where she had been sleeping. In retrospect, it now occurred to be that “the author,” seeing this “problem of a missing barber,” wrote back into the scene the sleeping barber as a patch job.
A general train of thought progressed along the lists of the little and implausibly significant exchanges of daily life that had occurred in recent memory. Along with the recurring themes in characters, settings and events, I realized that if, as I was now coming to believe, I was living in “the author’s” narrative, it may well be the bit where he was running out of material. I was not at risk for insolvency, destitution or even death. What I was really at risk for was a sentence that was never finished and a paragraph that went nowhere.
Exploring the premise further, beyond my minor dramedy, it started to become clear that this may well be the problem with the larger narrative. Unemployment, political strife, international economic crises, and the rest of the macro narrative lines were running out to a vague and unintelligible debacle.
“The author” was over-reaching.
Any and all of these had served in previous stories to raise up heroes, to transform people and simultaneously to destroy and recreate civilization. Narratives of scarcity and lack were, throughout the story, inevitability followed by narratives of abundance and even excess, with wonderful moral commentary built in.
But this was not like those stories. It was as if, here, now, “the author,” having set out on a large cast project with great ambition was losing interest.
Members of the cast, it seemed, without lines, were trying to make do and lobbying “the author” to take an interest in their particular narratives. Social and religious advocates of apocalypse were in agreement that the story needed one but couldn’t agree as to why. (Religious advocates seemed to feel a good old fashioned apocalypse would re-establish the preeminence of “the author” and make the narrative simpler. Social advocates were lobbying for a denouement apocalypse whose terminal conclusion removed all questions of “the author” and instead established the characters as both the cause and the effect.)
Eschewing apocalypse entirely were those who called for the narrative of the “New Utopia.”
Again there were, are, different camps, seeking power, seeking perfection, seeking vengeance and (the most dangerous) seeking the removal of humanity from humanity.
A slightly less vocal group called for a “happy ending,” where life would return to that sort-of-not-entirely-satisfactory state of personal struggle characterized by brief moments of happiness, expansive moments of despair, and a persistent sense of hope.
But they, the characters of the larger narrative, such as I, are confined by the motives intrinsic to the story and “the author” seems to be losing interest in the story entirely. (I would be concerned that my story might stop, but I am not written that way.)
A tree limb came crashing to the ground a few feet from me and disturbed my mental abstractions. Closing my book, I observed the limb. It was large, mottled with gray and green blisters of fungus, and draped with Spanish moss. Looking up into the canopy of trees in the park, I saw where it had disengaged itself from its tree, just now, or sometime earlier, and begun its descent. It seemed to me that it might have been there a few days, in limbo, and had worked its way down, helped along by the swaying motion of the canopy in the afternoon breeze.
Then it occurred to me that more than an hour had passed and I had been left unmolested by the homeless who wander this park. Rising from my bench, it further occurred to me that it was odd that there was an empty bench to be found in the park as the county had removed them all as part of their program to eradicate the homeless.
Walking from the park, I noted a man, trotting down the street toward me.
“Um . . . Mister,” he called to me in a sheepish manner.
I continued to walk toward him purposefully. He appeared to be a well groomed young man of 24 or so, clean shaven and yet somehow otherwise non-descript.
“Ah . . . Mister,” he now croaked, his voice moving to the register of the usual homeless and panhandlers to be found around the park. “Got any change?”
Scrawled on a sign he was carrying are the words: “Job Lost, Kids Hungry, Help Please? God Bless!”
Reaching into my pocket, I found a dollar bill and the quarters in change and I pressed them on him. A guilty thought filled my mind that I had been unreasonably suspicious of these synchronicities and too lost in my own abstractions to see what was going on.
“Thank you,” he said and began to effect a shuffle.
It seemed to me that he was becoming more scruffy as he wandered away. I noted that, on the back of his sign, was a print advertisement for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home for sale. He turned back and, then, I could swear he had a beard.
Turning the corner, I shook my head, trying to come to grips with the reality of my world.
I was tied up in court again with my ex, it was going to be another expensive and stupid lawsuit, and I was damn-beyond-broke. I had not just seen a clean shaven twenty-something with a hastily scrawled sign run down the street to become my obligatory homeless guy in the park. The world was just dropping back into the painful clarity that it normally exerts when I noted an expensive sports jacket lying in the shrubbery. On the lapel was a real estate agent’s pin with the name Chet Lambert printed above the company name. Looking around, I found a pen on the ground and, nearby, was a property sign stand with its cardboard ripped from its frame.
I sighed. The author was really getting lazy. Some poor bastard, probably a character like me, was given a random reassignment in the middle of his narrative. We were now clearly getting close to where the lines end.