Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Frayed Knot

You have to picture it for yourself.  A string walks into a bar.  If it is capable of so much thought and will as to conceive of going into a bar then it will find a way of walking, even if it means splitting itself at one end. Before it can ask for a drink, the bartender says that they don’t serve strings.  But suppose the string, either at this point or before the bartender has a chance to speak, opens its mouth (if it can split in order to walk, it can split in order to talk) says in a clear voice: I thirst – or perhaps, more colloquially, I am thirsty.  There is a silence in the bar as people take in the string’s words.  For some there will be a deep resonance.  And when the bartender says, as he must for the story to be fulfilled, I’m sorry, we don’t serve strings here, there will be a sense of disquiet, of something having occurred that is wrong.  For where there is thirst there is a moral duty to do what one can to alleviate it.

The string does not argue but walks back outside where it begins to contort and twist itself many times.  Why?  In an attempt to make itself into something other, more acceptable to the bartender so its thirst may be quenched.  Perhaps this, yes; or to give expression to the emotion that passed through it at the blanket rejection – for a piece of string cannot hide emotion, inner and outer are visible and tangible.  Or perhaps it seeks a way of coming to some deeper utterance.  When it goes back inside and the bartender says, hey, aren’t you the string that just left? It is able to reply quite truthfully that it is a frayed knot.  It is both frayed and afraid, and it is twisted into another shape from the one it originally presented.

There is nothing that comes after this.  We don’t hear what the bartender’s response might have been: well in that case, what will you have?  Or perhaps some kind of an apology for mistaken identity.  No, because the rules are the rules and it is still, whatever shape it has felt obliged to assume, a piece of string.  The bartender knows this, the clientele who watch open-mouthed from their stools or benches where they drink their pints of lager or sip at their glasses or wine or tumblers of whisky know this.  And the string – particularly the string – knows this. 

What if the story ends unexpectedly and the bartender serves the piece of string a drink?  Will everything change, as it does in the tale of the Frog Prince who is thrown against the wall (or given a kiss, depending on the version you read)?  The frog becomes what it in truth really is – a prince.  The string reaches a hempen finger to grasp the pint of beer, draws the glass to its lips and before our eyes a human creature appears, one that we recognise and welcome. 

I thank you.


D Phoenix said...

The pathos! I love this. And so very modern in its exploration of String Theory. I'm very glad you shared this piece.

Fire Bird said...

I'd love to see the piece of string drink a pint and watch where the liquid goes... inner and outer and visible and tangible, does it spill out like the feelings?

Reading the Signs said...

Dear D, the truth is that I have never come very close to understanding String Theory and when I have almost no recollection of writing this piece or what prompted it (apart from the joke). Thank you.

F B, I think when the piece of string begins to drink it morphs into something like a human being. Either this or my imagination peters out at this point :)

Anna MR said...

The liquid – so I see the situation – is soaked into the string. Strings can absorb quite a lot of beer (wine, too, I believe. And whisky). The act of alcohol absorption morphs it into a human – just like Signs says.

Consequently, we might conclude that people are created through soaking string in alcohol. A person, hence, might be described as a wick, of sorts, no? Hold a match to them, light them with life. Once the chemical reaction has been started, the wick will burn for a lifetime.

(I love not only your stories but the way you have of sparking even this dull brain into life. You must have been one hell of a creative-writing teacher, you know? When you achieve this (the unachievable: sparking my brain) without even officially trying. Thank you.)


Reading the Signs said...

Anna, I think my reading of it is (was) that the gesture of being served a drink was the thing that transformed it. But yes, yes, a person could be a wick! As in, c'mon baby, light my fire? Perhaps not that.

Mim said...

Without a drink, the string might get strung-out.

Saluting you from South Beach . . .


Reading the Signs said...

Mim, there is a whole new story in this :)

I wish I could beam myself over to South Beach.