EP: Run to the Hills by Iron Maiden
2014 BMG Records BMG14026V, Sanctuary 88103411160
Favorite Track: Run to the Hills
*The following is an attempt for me to write through some writer’s block on a short story that has been troubling me for a while. Right now, my strategy is to just write every little bit of detail out. Then revisit it in a completely new fashion. The language is weak, but I’m just trying to find the plot.
I never should have gotten involved with Count Vorobok. Impatient, curt, and prone to criticize the world at large, his viridian eyes melted my heart the very first moment I saw them through the snow. His clothing was always wrinkled and smelling slightly of turmeric. Being frugal, he cut his own hair leaving behind a thin mess of question marks on the wooden floors. I loved his conversations, his astute insights in my artwork, but found myself cringing when he snorted at his own jokes. He was too slim, each round of laughter worked its way through his shaking frame until his beak of a nose quivered like an overexcited rabbit.
The books. I couldn’t believe he lived in a such a cramped apartment surrounded by shelves and shelves. I insisted he move in with me so he (or perhaps just I) could breathe.
Hours and hours of the day spent searching through books, copying sentences, and being asked to read out loud while standing on chalk sigils. I hated to read out loud, always a tad timid of my voice and its volume. I really just wanted to take pictures of him strewn on the floor amid his books and pens. I only have one known photograph of him and today it is hanging up inside the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati.
But without him, I never would have read Franz Kafka. Count Vorobok had a talent for gift-giving–an annoyingly accurate one at that so that I began to resent my own gifts like they were fraudulent–and he had left one out in the open in his study. It was an autumn day with a fast moving storm turning the cloudless smear of blue morning into an afternoon blanket of deep blacks, smokey greys, and off-color whites. The note of the book read: “Parker / “In the Penal Colony” / Kafka.” I peeled the note without hesitation, without realizing how hurt his face would look when he learned I had discovered his surprise without his presence (and he never did understand that he didn’t need to be there for me to be surprised, but I am trying to not write down our arguments), and carried the book into the living room.
Sitting by the window with the book and a cup of tea, I paused to listen to the tapping against the glass. Each sheet of rain reminded me of a musical chord. The song was somber and steady. I curled my feet underneath me–the singular way to truly submerge yourself into the literature is to cut off a little circulation of your own. I read “In the Penal Colony” in one hushed, tense sitting. My neck was sore and I had pressed my fingers so hard into the pages, I had damaged the book. But my mind had been utterly effaced. I had been sentenced as a criminal, as a reader.
Count Vorobok never understood how guilty I felt that night. He just brushed the dust off of his coat, placed his top hat on the stand, and put that awful Lizst’s Totentanz on again. He did not shout, but the light was gone from his eyes. With feelings of guilt and betrayal, I hid in the bedroom taking photographs to soothe my emotions. One ended up being “Teddy Bear at the Intersection of Childhood and Adulthood” which earned me my brief period of fame.
I had in return got Count Vorobok started on his obsession that would send him to Prague. We had visited Roland Varth, an outsider artist whose work incorporates scarification with historical conspiracies. His latest work was about Jan Hus, the Protestant reformer burned at the stake for heresies. Roland was in a mood that night. His erotic escapades with librarians had given him access to the rare book room before opening and this morning he had stumbled upon a particularly occult reference in a letter from Hus to Wycliffe. Roland has bushy eyebrows that gave his face an owlish appearance when he was excited. Red from drink, breath reeking of garlic and leeks, he seized Vorobok by his bony shoulders and, without blinking, nose apart, said, “Witchcraft is misleading when it deals with monsters beyond the frivolous limit we call space.”