No longer a thing seen but not to be touched.

Two o’clock in the p.m. on January first, two-thousand-sixteen. Stayed up late chasing white rabbits on Wikipedia: I read articles and would find two or three things in each that also seemed interesting, so I opened new tabs and kept reading. By the time the phone was inching closer toward my nose as my eyes crossed and I fell asleep, I couldn’t even remember what got me started. When I was a child I used to read real encyclopedias the same way — the World Books and Encyclopedias Britannica my father had purchased for me when I was in utero. Wikipedia is not as reliable, informative or satisfying as those weighty books were, but what it lacks in substance and truth it makes up with convenience.

I have had blurry vision for the past couple days. Screens and monitors resemble rippling pools and I keep wondering if I’m seeing a clever new kind of advertising. Eyes are drawn to movement, which is why online banner ads usually have moving parts. But even this current document window of black letters on a white page is whirling around on me, so I guess it’s just a trippy side effect of the Spiriva inhalant. I just found out this morning I’ve been taking a double dose daily for a week now.

Wherrrps.

I have to get out of this house today. There is a limit to being a heap of clammy flesh slumped in bed or a chair reading about life but not experiencing it. The doctors warned me not to exercise while I am having these pulmonary issues. But as Ralph said to Piggy in Chapter 1 of Lord of the Flies — the first novel I ever read which I really “got” in terms of motifs and symbolism: “Sucks to your ass-mar!” If you can get on your feet, you should. I’m getting to the point where I don’t care about distorted vision or bleachy-tasting yellow sputum or fatigue, congestion or malaise. Sucks to it all.

Watching a lecture about Franny and Zooey a couple days ago, I liked what the professor said at the start about making literary arguments. I liked it because it had spiritual ramifications, and a lot of what she said also applies to biblical exegesis.

Anyway, I’m going to the beach. Maybe I’ll find a conch…

Ralph had stopped smiling and was pointing into the lagoon. Something creamy lay among the ferny weeds.

“A stone.”

“No. A shell.”

Suddenly Piggy was a-bubble with decorous excitement.

“S’right. It’s a shell! I seen one like that before. On someone’s back wall. A conch he called it. He used to blow it and then his mum would come. It’s ever so valuable–“

Near to Ralph’s elbow a palm sapling leaned out over the lagoon. Indeed, the weight was already pulling a lump from the poor soil and soon it would fall. He tore out the stem and began to poke about in the water, while the brilliant fish flicked away on this side and that. Piggy leaned dangerously.

“Careful! You’ll break it–“

“Shut up.”

Ralph spoke absently. The shell was interesting and pretty and a worthy plaything; but the vivid phantoms of his day-dream still interposed between him and Piggy, who in this context was an irrelevance. The palm sapling, bending, pushed the shell across the weeds. Ralph used one hand as a fulcrum and pressed down with the other till the shell rose, dripping, and Piggy could make a grab.

Now the shell was no longer a thing seen but not to be touched, Ralph too became excited. Piggy babbled:

“–a conch; ever so expensive. I bet if you wanted to buy one, you’d have to pay pounds and pounds and pounds–he had it on his garden wall, and my auntie–“

Ralph took the shell from Piggy and a little water ran down his arm. In color the shell was deep cream, touched here and there with fading pink. Between the point, worn away into a little hole, and the pink lips of the mouth, lay eighteen inches of shell with a slight spiral twist and covered with a delicate, embossed pattern. Ralph shook sand out of the deep tube.

“–mooed like a cow,” he said. “He had some white stones too, an’ a bird cage with a green parrot. He didn’t blow the white stones, of course, an’ he said–“

Piggy paused for breath and stroked the glistening thing that lay in Ralph’s hands.

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Author: Steve Hobbs

I live and write near the beaches of Brunswick County, NC. I entered this fallen reality in 1975. My wife Sikki and I were married in 1997. We have five children. I am a follower of Jesus and a seeker of truth.

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