Idle Tales: The Sweet-Toothed Robber

There was a small four-year-old boy who, upon seeing another child on television have a birthday party resplendent with people singing to him as he smeared cake and ice cream over his face, begged his father for a party on his birthday that was coming up the next weekend. The father said that he would, even though he was not the type of man who throws parties for little boys. The boy eagerly anticipated his birthday, but when there were no balloons, guests or sweets, he began to cry in disappointment. Generally, his father would scream, “I’ll give you something to bawl about!” and beat him into submission, but this was his birthday and the man wasn’t heartless, after all.

“Shush, shush,” the father said. “Here, have some beer instead. You’re old enough now. Hell, I had my first beer a year younger than you.”

So, the boy drank the offered beer, which lulled him into a peaceful black sleep.

                           *                    *                *

The father was not finished with hearing about birthday parties. Each year, the boy begged for one. For his sixth birthday, his father made him a rum and coke. For his eighth, his father shared some pot brownies he’d gotten from a friend. For his eleventh, his father taught him how to use meth and heroin. “It’s a cruel world, son. The Man, all he does is beat you down. You’ve got to take advantage of every enjoyment you can, wherever you can find it.”

                            *                    *                *

For his twenty-third birthday, his father was long gone, locked away in prison. It was up to the boy-turned-man to find his enjoyment. Sugar, booze or drugs: he craved it all. That morning, he decided to start off the day with a coffee from a local coffee stand, but they refused to serve him when his card was declined.

“But it’s my birthday,” he said.

“I’m sorry sir,” said the cute brunette barista. “We can’t serve you without payment.”

He walked back home angry that the day was off to such a poor start. If his card was declined there, it would be everywhere. His birthday would be nothing but an empty stomach. Roused by self-pity, he moved into action. He swapped his coat for another and wrapped an old bandana around his face. Then, he returned to the coffee stand.

“You’re back,” said the brunette. “Did you bring a form of payment?”

“You’re mistaken,” he said gruffly, trying to disguise his voice. Then, he handed her a note reading: “I HAVE A GUN. GIVE ME ALL THE MONEY NOW.”

The barista’s smile faded, but she didn’t look alarmed as she opened the till and handed him $450. He thanked her before running off. About eight blocks away, he spotted a police officer. He ran up to him and said, “Excuse me, officer, but I’ve been robbed.”

There had just been a broadcast for a robber of a coffee stand and the police officer thought this man fit the description so he took him into custody. The police officer was confused by the man’s actions, as was the man himself. He didn’t have the words to say, “I was robbed of a good life, the type where little boys have friends and parties and birthday cakes. Instead, all I got were beatings, drugs and overdrawn bank accounts that have made me into this, a sad, pathetic criminal. You’re a defender of the people. Return to me what was stolen.”

 Perhaps, the policeman did hear this. After all, jail gave the man a new family and three square meals.

The shaman is one who has undergone a psychological transformation of his or her own, an experience we would call a schizophrenic crack-up. The shaman has gone down into the domain of the deep unconscious, found the deities, and come back, so there is a kind of authenticity about him or her.
Joseph Campbell, Goddesses: Mysteries of the Feminine Divine

Virgil’s Aeneid in modern verse


Gold: my unfound treasure,

the color of her hair

and endless sand.

Blue: my eternal sadness

the color of her eyes,

and the vast sky.

Vultures swoop down,

tearing off chunks of my flesh;

as I continue walking.

The lantern slips from my skeletal fingers

so I hang the glowing fire

where my heart once was.

Inspiration is the opportunity that genius may seize; and is not even balanced on a razor’s edge, but instantly in the air and flying off with the quick alarm of crows. Inspiration has no scarf by which the poet may grasp her. Her hair is a flame. She is gone like those rose-coloured and white beautiful flamingos that are the despair of sportsmem. And work is a fatiguing struggle, dreaded as well as passionately loved by the fine and powerful natures that are often broken by it. A great poet of our own times, speaking of this appalling toil, has said, “I begin it with despair and leave it with grief.”

Let ignorance take note! If the artist does not throw himself into his work like Curtius into the gulf, like a soldier against a fortress, without counting the cost; and if, once within the breach, he does not labour like a miner buried under a fallen roof; if, in short, he contemplates the difficulties instead of conquering them, one by one, like those lovers in the fairy-tales who, to win their princesses, fought ever-renewed enchantments; then the work remains unfinished, it perishes, is lost within the workshop, where production becomes impossible, and the artist is a looker-on at his talent’s suicide.

Honoré de Balzac, Cousin Bette