Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cafes and Canals

Here is a little story I wrote for my cousin, Ingrid's, blog, IceCreamIsNiceCream, which sadly is now quite derelict.

Petey stumbles out of the coffee shop.  He wanders around the city
and after about half-an-hour, realizes he is quite lost.
He starts to search around for his backpack.  In it, he will
find things that might help get him out of this mess, like a
map and phone numbers of people that he could call in an
emergency.  Thinking that he has left it in the coffee shop,
he starts to sweat, then realizes it is on his back.
After rummaging around in it for a while, he pulls out
a tattered notebook, which slips from his hands and falls
open on the pavement.  There, in a fuzzy scrawl he does not
recognize, is the name and number of his favourite cousin,
Ingrid, who just happens to live in Amsterdam.

"I'm in luck," he thinks, glancing across the street to
the waiting booth with the phone in it.  Which, curses, does
not take coins.  He will have to walk back to the station
to buy a phone card.  Three hours later he is at the phone,
notebook in hand.  His heart is pounding, which is making
him see strange hallucinations of angels and demons fighting,
amongst other things.

Will she have time to see him?  Even if she has time,
will she forgive him for the last two times they met
when he unloaded his twisted philosophical meanderings
and his problems, which he always does when he's stressed.

He takes a deep breath, swallows and dials the number.

"Ingrid?  I just happened to be in your corner of the
universe.  How about hanging out for the afternoon?"

He hears her response from the other end of the line.

"Great.  We can meet in the coffee shop on Kerkstraat."

Ingrid is one of his favourite people because (unlike him)
she is always smiling and she can make him laugh.  But today
she has lost her smile.  He wonder if she wants to cry but
is too shy to do so openly.  Petey, by contrast, is
sobbing his eyes out because smoking dope always makes
him cry.  Plus he loses all shame about being a 35 year
old man and bawling in public.

"Look," he explains between sobs.  "It's a gateway to
another universe."

He is holding open a map of Amsterdam and gesticulating

"It's all in the geometry of the streets.  That's the
launch point," he says, pointing.
"The normal rules don't apply, so I was thinking..."

"Maybe I can get my smile back?" she finishes.


They walk back to the station.

"I figured it out on the way into town."  Petey gestures
towards the platform, which labelled somewhat ominously as,

As the train is picking up speed, it transforms itself into
a launch vehicle and the buildings into impulse magnets.
An announcer walks into the cabin and starts describing the
sights but nobody's listening because everybody's gazing out
in wonder.  Plus they're all completely fucking stoned.

Their ears perk up, though, when the announcer says,
"but you can't be happy ALL the time.  That's why we designed
this:... "  The train had stopped all the tourists had unloaded.
The space is indescribably convoluted and filled with bizarre
contraptions whose purpose they can only guess at.
The announcer continues:
"the torture simulator.  Remember, the normal rules don't
apply.  Torture all you want.  You pop out just fine on the
other side."

They take turns while the others devise diabolical punishments.

"What the hell," says Petey, "I've got a high pain tolerance.
Might as well give it a whirl."

The other tourists debate among themselves.

"We could rip out all his chest hair and feed it to him..."
And such like.  He doesn't last long.

After this, the guests are allowed to explore on their own.
Ingrid sits down to ruminate.  She is just not herself today.
But Petey is jumping up and down and pointing (man that was
some strong hash!)  The sign says, "Bicycle Rides."

They are each presented a surreal-looking mount.  Ingrid taks
off on hers but Petey is struggling to keep up because his
arms and legs have been exchanged (as one of his tortures.)

They see all kinds of strange and wondrous things: animals
whose insides are outside and vice versa, plants that
grow upside down, every mythical creature ever invented
and many other things not even describable on paper.

They look at each other.  "I don't know if this is really
my thing," starts Ingrid.  "I think I'm happy with normal,
everyday world with normal rules."

"Agreed."  And all of a sudden they are back in the streets
of Amsterdam, bumping over the cobblestones.  Each jagged piece
glistens with just fallen-rain and it is all they can do to
steer their bikes between the tourists, over the tram tracks,
past the other cyclists and all along the variegated rows of
ancient and new buildings.  There is just so much to see and do that
it is too much for the eye to take in.  But the sun comes out
where they find some peace and respite in an outdoor cafe where they drink
coffee and wine and smoke cigarettes.

By the end of the day, Ingrid has her smile back.