The Stiffly One

Up on the stage, under the spotlight, The FireVaney draws the back of his hand across his damp forehead. He’s “dying” up there. Nobody’s laughing. Their silence is “murdering” him.


[He tries to swallow, but his throat is drier than the Sahara.] 

People say... 

[He reaches for the glass of water sitting on a nearby stool. In his haste, he nearly knocks it over. He panics and takes too much care to prevent it from spilling. Several members of the audience snicker. The water in the glass quakes in FireVaney’s shaky hand as he brings it to his lips, sips, and then carefully sets it back down. He clears his throat.]

People say I’m stiff— 
too stiff, too rigid— 
Throughout my entire life, 
I’ve been referred to 
as a walking, talking 
less flexible 
than a lamppost; 
from head to toe, 
a potential toothpick 
King Kong.

You’d think at least I could dance the robot. 

[The FireVaney makes a meager effort at it. He jerks an arm up—just one—and keeps it level with the rest of his shoulder, like a one-armed scarecrow. Suddenly, he points his hand straight up, stiffly. Then, after a pause, he points it straight down, with equal stiffness.]

But it seems 
I’m too rigid 
too white. 

[He lets his raised arm drop, where it bounces twice against his hip.]

No matter how much I stretch, I can’t seem to limber up. 

And so, 
I’ve decided 
to own it, 
embrace it, 
cultivate it. 
It’s who I am: 
I’m stiff. 

You’d think terminal rigidity would have some practical use.

I want a cop to pull me over and ask me to please step out of my vehicle. And then, finally, when he instructs me to walk in a straight line, at long last, I’ll shine. Won’t I? What with my lousy coordination I’d doubtlessly walk more of a jagged than a straight line, wouldn’t I?

Stiff, rigid, hard… 
of course, 
in the one way that matters most. 
[To crotch:] 
“Why can’t you be too stiff?” 
[To crowd:] 
Maybe I abuse it too much. 
All that… 
[To crotch:] 
“Stiffen up!” 
[To crowd:] 
Give me a break, will ya? With everything that’s happening in the world, it’s hard to loosen up. I figure the worse things get, the stiffer I’ll become. Perhaps I’ll end up being the first living person afflicted with rigor mortis. Or would you call that paralysis? Either way, seeing how people are always at each other’s throats these days, it’s only a matter of time before I’ll be able to market myself as a pillar, 
or a column, 
or possibly 
as an obelisk.

Yes, by this time next year, I should be vertically inelastic enough to hold up just about anything you might want roughly five feet, eight inches off the ground.

Just, uh, every few days maybe cram a Big Mac into my mouth. You might also have to move my jaw up and down. Here’s hoping I’ll be able to swallow well enough. Fingers crossed. 

[He holds up crossed fingers, pauses; then uncrosses them with the fingers of his other hand.] 

And I suppose you’ll need to hose me down several times a week. And change my diaper, daily. But you could hire somebody to do that. This is fast becoming an expensive proposition, isn’t it? Hm. I’d argue that a flexible human is more costly than an inflexible human, for the simple reason that an inflexible human is, by nature, limited.

Let’s backup and consider the logic of these aforementioned assertions. Even with my chronic rigidity complex (self-diagnosed), why would I be an improvement over a “legitimate” pillar? Well, while nothing prevents you from expressing your thoughts to any given inanimate object, you cannot actually converse with a pillar — not unless you’re tripping on LSD or some other hallucinogenic. But even if you’re tripping, the heated debate you’re having with an inanimate pillar (on, say, the pros and cons of achieving global tastebud harmony) is entirely a concoction of your own imagination.

A fella I knew in college freely admitted to copulating — whilst tripping — with a tree. Methinks the tree would’ve (if it could’ve) described the encounter as an assault. Here was this unruly college kid trying to chop a poor tree down by ramming his body against it. (Consider the most common interactions betwixt people and trees. If youths aren’t climbing them, adults are taking an axe to them.) Alas, I failed to ask the fella to point out which tree he’d been “intimate” with, so I never got the tree’s side of the story. But then trees aren’t exactly forthcoming with their thoughts, are they? No, trees tend to be a reticent lot. Unlike sapiens, trees are, seemingly, masters at showing, rather than telling.

Back to pillars…

An inanimate pillar is not only incapable of engaging in debate, it can’t even hear you. The most you could do with a pillar (other than use it as a pillar) is bounce sound, or perhaps a ball, off if it. You’d think that goes without saying, but if the earth is flat, why can’t it be square? Or triangular? (Folks keep bringing up the “corners of the world,” after all.) Somebody (you) should make the case for a great stellated dodecahedron-shaped Earth. Imagine the skiing opportunities!

But back to pillars… 

I’m a listener. 
Bottomline: Whilst a pillar rarely qualifies as a conversation piece, I am fast becoming just that (i.e., a conversation piece; i.e., given the exacerbation of my physical rigidity). True, I’ve never been the life of the party, but at least I’ve got more character than most stone pillars. And remember this: A pillar will never give you a little elbow nudge (because it can’t) and go, “What did one pillar say to another pillar? Pill her? I don’t even know her!” That’s right, folks. A “legitimate” pillar can’t even crack a bad joke. A pillar can crack, though. 
I come pre-cracked 
(in the head).

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