In 1929 just to the north of Siberia, where lived a Teutonic tribe of furry little glass blowers (smaller than dwarf peoples), sat upon a dark box (in which was stored three sizes of hand-hewn nails for the purpose of house building), I had the decency to come across a man-child by the name of Smithens, who was a Box Sitter of the lowest order. I gave him a crisp. He gave me lice. My then-wife, appointed to me by the Teutonic tribe of glass blowers, an overly patriarchal community whose biggest fear (because who wants to invade north of Siberia?) was that of the unwatched male, particularly one grossly two feet taller, spent three weeks in isolation with me, picking the nits and lice and eggs from my person. I survived and was cured, although lost much of my body hair, when I was pushed over a kneeling (at prayer) village elder by a (very) small boy playing stickball (stick being old bone, in this arid nation, and ball being a capuchin skull) and fell thus into the fire. This was apparently one of the few ways to ensure excommunication from the tribe, to lose one-half of one’s mustache and one brow, which caused the elders to look at one askance. I left my considerably small in stature wife, who had taken to sniggering at me when my back was turned. In my Will and Testament, I appointed my then-wife as guardian to the miniature Smithens, and she was thusly obliged to take him to her home and boil him (a cure for the lice), and the last I heard of the lower orders of the Box Sitters was that, starting with Smithens and his boiling, the Box Sitters proceeded to grow unto heights hitherto unknown in the region—nearly a meter from tip to stern. The Box Sitters are now also relegated to sit their boxes longer hours, to account for the worshipful masses.
Winnipeg, 1908. Shot by musket ball. Village midwife who removed musket ball insatiably crude woman. I write this as a warning to all peoples. Weaker constitutions lacking my unshakable strength could not handle a woman with a scalpel and a forked tongue.
Women without scalpels find me divine, desirable, even.
Beware the Canadian wildernesses. The women, the wildlife, the land, lepers, domestication, downdrafts. Everything here runs rampant. Keep in mind that I was shot, not for honor, but via carelessness. A local lacking teeth left his loaded musket on his porch and a curious and passing raccoon with opposable thumbs squeezed that trigger and shot me from behind.
It is a miracle the Canadians survive their environment at all.
Have written letters of caution to the highest order of zoologists. Begged warning notices, suggested closing the whole of Canada to human populations, wrote a tactful missive for the H.O.Z. to place in the Farmer’s Almanac or Harper’s Bazaar. Suggested a wooden placard at the edge of the city, a whispering campaign, a ban on trade. Anything to warn back the intelligent populations from being struck down in their prime in this backwards nation.
Apparently warnings were only issued upon length of tooth/claw. Once men intervene upon the habitat of indigenous creatures, the zoologists believe we get what we deserve.
They, too, are afeared of the raccoons.
Married for eighth time this January, at Old Christmas. This is the third time I did not realize I was in the midst of a marriage ceremony.
This one involved citrus fruit and a live boa, both imported.
On my travels to the Galapagos in the Year of Our Lord 1917, while the rest of the world was faintly preoccupied, I happened upon a singular island big enough for one. Upon that island lived one mannish beast of humanoid nature, which I dubbed Bosh.
From the paintings upon his rock, I was able to discern that Bosh came from a long line of tortoise hunters and had a strong belief in the magic of the shell. His back had an awesome curve to it, the likes of which one found in the front fender of a Model T and nowhere else.
Bosh seemed to agree that I was a handsome man. He pelted me lavishly with the sharp bones of small fishes. Highly calciferous.
After the fateful loss of half of my mustache, I returned to the civilized peoples of the world, only to find myself turned away. Apparently my social stature had dwindled when I did not cable my wife-to-be of my temporary-missus. Her name being Elaine. Elaine took grave offense when, upon my being, she found charcoal tracings of the slight foot of my temporary marital tryst.
A slight foot, to much of the civilized and uncivilized world, in woman, is a desirable trait. I haven’t the foggiest idea as to why. In any creature larger than my Teutonic bride, the slight foot causes a woman to stumble higgledy-piggledy, which I find to be unfashionable.
Elaine took offense to my mentioning her at all in my notes. Although she agreed that, someday, I may be famed for my anthropological studies, at this point in time, I was merely offensive. She slammed the door in my face and proceeded to sneer, vocally, at my half-mustache.
It was all rather rude. I took my leave.
The society matron is clearly in the least desirable position of any creature I’ve had the delight to study.
Bosh seemed to have no spoken language. Or perhaps he was deaf, and dumb. But it seemed highly unlikely that he had been exiled to his rock by a larger society, as the paintings upon the crevices and spires were generations-old and I was lucky enough to find some on a diving expedition, which I have catalogued in the back of this book in Appendix C, under Unlikely Discoveries.
Because Bosh was clearly dumb in the greater sense of the world, I took it upon myself to draw up the suppositions left by my discoveries.
Bosh was of a peoples known as the Urrigah, a guttural peoples of lax morality, depicted in their own paintings as nudists. The men were passivist wall-huddlers, the women were cave wenches, if the term may be allowed, except without the cave. The paintings, in fish blood, show a shipwrecked people on a larger island filled with reptilian creatures that range in size from four meters to forty and are partial to dance. Unless the swirls and puffs were meant as crude decoration to their Creation Story, the island suffered a disaster of a volcanic nature, and possibly four or five tidal waves, which shrunk the livable land and most probably killed Bosh’s people. The pictographs are not updated after the point of sad Bosh, curvy of stature, left behind to embody the loneliness of the sea turtle. Or maybe his peoples left him as a dullard and swam away and have been repeatedly mistaken for mermen by passing sailors.
Mermen lead highly undesirable lives. In the spring of 1922, I came across the bloated carcass of a merman washed upon the shore of X____, where I was stationed, secretly, for the royal government and was a time in my life of which I’m still not allowed to speak. My notebooks have likewise been edited by officers of higher standing than myself, with ink pens and occasionally pastels, men of little learning and no sense of posterity, nor of art, as they also edited my doodles, adding breasts to my daydream of General Sherman. . . . Regardless, the one thing I was allowed to retain of the entire year of 1922 was my merman.
Dead. Bloated. One arm gnawed off by Lord knows what insidious aquatic creature.
Using my R.A.F. issued knife, I slit his stomach.
Algae and miniature fish, raw. Slimy.
Mermen, lacking a source of fire, can never be civilized. They will always be second-rate citizens.
Arrived in the Americas, June 1930. Detained for lice. As mentioned, my injured body cannot harbor lice. Called for council and claimed prejudice at my mustache and unfortunate reddening of my skin.
They offered to return me to whence I’d come.
I said I was unsure where that was, at present.
They offered to find me a place, outside civilization, that would be overjoyed to receive me.
I said sure.
Took my leave of Bosh and his miniature island while the Great War continued to occupy the interests of the lay peoples and forestall most anthropological expeditions. Bosh, last of his kind, turned out to be a dullard, and so I left on the West Wind in search of hyperactive pygmies. The man-beast Bosh seemed to desire to let his species die out, rather than to find love in the arms of a foreign woman.
Although he took a liking to me.
As mentioned, he thought me a handsome creature. I often awoke to find his knee in my belly and a sharp fish bone to my neck. Can only assume it to be an ancient mating ritual, but unfortunately, such misogynistic tendencies can only end in despair. Women the world over have very sharp fingernails.
Received wire from Elaine circa 1922, after being turned away at her border for third time. Asking if I have a brother.
Reply wire: Elaine dearest should have proceeded with wedding stop would have met entirety of Tynes family.
Wire from Elaine: Don’t be silly.
Reply: Wish you would join me found tribe worships silkworms stop well dressed well spoken stop afraid may be in Wales.
Wire from Elaine: Oh stop.
I wasn’t entirely sure what she meant by that. The telegraph man thought I was being silly.
August 1930. The Americans blindfolded me and put me in the bottom of a cargo ship headed for the middle of the sea, where they were to drop an undisclosed amount of waste. Perhaps myself included.
Only one man, a Captain Shiffeld, knew I was aboard, and even then, he daily sent one small wooden plate of grub with the cabin boy to bring below ‘for the rats’.
During this time, I found I had a terrible understanding for the unfortunate lives of the rats, and I taught several to dance when I played a pipe. I had found a broken smoker’s pipe with the bowl separated from the handle, and I managed, with the sharp tip of my R.A.F. knife, to puncture the handle at certain junctures along a scale clear only to my ear. I have never been known as a swell player of music. In fact, I have once or twice cleared a party, at the behest of la policia, by engaging myself at the piano and refusing to take my leave until I induced everyone to a jig.
The rats were easier to entice than snoot-nosed diamond-ringed heiresses.
The rats also carried disease. Much like the snoot-nosed diamond-ringed heiresses. But I was better able to deal with the diseases of the rats, which kept my symptoms to expectorating Captain Shiffeld’s noxious grub through various orifices.
The rats seemed to enjoy that part of my performance.
Made them dance all the more.
Blindfolded, in the middle of a dark night, I was hauled, half-asleep, from the bottom of the cargo ship and dropped on the sand of an island, upon which sea, I am still unsure. All I know is that it alternated, green, blue, and black. Trash washed upon the shore, voluminous as jellyfish after a typhoon.
Suffering some rat-induced illness, I lay upon the shore a myriad of days. Lost my little toe to a particularly nasty crab with the pinch pressure of a nutcracker at Christmas, in the old days, when I would have been invited amongst society for my endless knowledge of uncivilized peoples and my quaint ability to re-enact their most fearsome and mannerless grunts.
The crab, the rats, the sand chafing, were the only pleasures I was afforded.
But when I finally came unto myself and looked up into the darkness obscuring the sun, I found the darkness to belong to a head. Humanoid. My dear old friend Bosh.
He did not appear happy to see me. I, otherwise, was ecstatic. I reached out and slugged him in the shoulder. “Why, Bosh, you old poser, what brings you here?” I put myself up on my knees and lunged at him for a hug.
Elaine would have understood my need.
Bosh felt an aversion, which started with a Harvard boxing punch to the underside of my jaw.
Bosh’s island had grown tenfold, or else the ocean had been receding in the years that had passed me by. Bosh had incurred a positive change in his life.
Whereas I once more had lice, ones that cared not for the burns and half a mustache upon my face.
In moments reunited with dear friends who immediately spring into violence and take charge of beating one’s consciousness into submission, when one can only assume to have offended by one’s absence, one’s brain takes them on a lark through time and deposits them back to the sitting box north of Siberia where once the days had been joyful, though three hours long, and the nights had been cold of foot with a miniature wifette. A fire flickered and I recognized the cave and my empty pack of crisps. The box, the boy, and perhaps my own dead body in the corner, with a full mustache.
“Smithens, is that you?” I did not try to hug the boy. I crawled upon my knees, nose to the dirt. “Smithens, tell me: is this all there is in the world?”
If Smithens did not sit his box, he would be exiled. North of Siberia, exile meant death. He was caste into his role.
Perhaps I did not have to die, but I also did not have to live. I had choices Smithens did not. Our worlds ran different rule books. He was run by his caste, I was run by my wives. And yes, of course, there she was, the miniature one, and my dead body was gone from the corner, rejoining me as if I’d come back to collect.
My then-wife urged Smithens to move from his perch and she opened her personal box of three sizes of house-building nails, and she removed first the small ones, which she heated over the meager fire in the corner of the box-sitting cave. Then she came to me. To jam them up my fingernails. I am sure I could see the strong emotions of my absence, her love, her need, and her volatility. “Wife? Is this all there is?”
Instead of answering, she returned to the box and brought out the second size nails. These she also heated, then brought them to me and pushed them under my toenails (missing the right pinky after the incident with the crab in the future).
“Wife? Please answer. Is this all there is?”
She returned a third time to the box and extracted the largest nails, heated them, and shoved them into my nasal cavity. “Yes, I suppose this is all there is.”
Smithens was then free of his box-sitting duty, as the nails had all been used up in the creation of me as a house for my wife.
If dreams at sea are disturbing, when there is nothing to hold you up excepting a very small world, that is nothing compared to dreams on land, where you could fall off at any moment.
Bosh taught me that. On beach, on hill, on dale, on a mountain top constructed of a hundred thousand grains of sand, hand-carried and hand-set.
Bosh’s mountain is a hard place to fall from.
Elaine: Crim where?
Reply: Dearest Elaine nowhere.
Reply: Elaine send for me that the customs officers may let me through mustache or no.
Elaine: Lost mustache?
Reply: Elaine marry me stop no one else worthy stop save me.
Elaine: Cryptic placement of stop save me darling stop no one else worthy save you stop or simply save you?
I had no reply to that one. I let it go. Besides, it’s hard to telegraph from a deserted island with dream women tormenting you with hot nails and feebleminded men throwing you from every precipice they can create.
June 1930, customs, just outside the Americas. Bosh was my customs officer, denying my entrance.
Bosh had grown quite a gratuitous mustache, reminiscent of my own circa 1917. “Get out. You’ve already taken one wife from me.”
My papers stated I had been (accidentally) married upwards of eight times. Mostly during tribal disputes and ancient ceremonies.
“Nine times,” Bosh said. He had a Harvard man accent and a wicked uppercut. “Let me send you somewhere outside civilization where they will know what to do with you.”
“Sounds glorious.” I brought out my leather notebook of scribbles. “I’ve already been many uncivilized places. Although none quite as horrific as New York and London.”
“Nine times.” He faded away and sent me sailing back to Winnipeg in 1908 where I found I had been married a ninth time, to an already-married midwife, by a raccoon, at gunpoint. The Americas had always been known for their shotgun weddings.
Nine times. Once to Bosh’s then-wife.
Bosh was trying to throw me into the sea. I was attempting to hug him.
Bosh said nothing, hadn’t said a word to me since perhaps the winter of 1908, although I couldn’t place him in Winnipeg at the time.
He hit my head against a boulder. “St. Petersburg,” he finally admitted. “Separated from my wife by the army.”
“Oh! I remember you!” I remembered clearly, Bosh and his crazy mustache, posing nude for a seamstress/paintress in St. Petersburg, shortly before I sailed for Winnipeg in search of the naked man’s then-wife, from one dark elaborate snow country to a second. I had completely forgotten my message to the wife, under duress from the assault by the deadly raccoon. “Terribly sorry. I never did tell her you were dead.”
Bosh threw me over the side of the cliff, two feet tall and growing, slowly. But it was the thought that counted.
Elaine: Crim sorry married next month stop courting Bosh.
Well. How could I court Bosh when he had disappeared over the horizon on the back of a whale nigh on a month before? I had never, in all my studies of indigenous peoples, seen a man from Harvard ride a whale bareback. I supposed I never should again.
I had one month to find my way back to Elaine. And my brother. Dear brother.
I climbed up the cliff, penitent and willing. Any sacrifice for a brother! “Bosh, could I interest you in a small but lively woman in the north of Siberia?”
Bosh pulled out a deadly sea serpent tied to the end of a club. It was an ancient weapon that spared both wielder and serpent, while endangering anyone in a three-foot radius. I had never seen it employed outside renderings in historical texts. I gave him a Brava! He reared back to hit me. At that point, the sun set. When it rose the next morning, Bosh was gone. I couldn’t find him anywhere in the three hundred cubic feet of the island. Bosh’s island.
Brothers had spats, traditionally, but it was ever so rare to have one brother abandon another on a deserted island.
I painted a For Sale sign using the blood of several dinner fish, and I waited it out. With the growth rate of this land, it would soon be prime real estate.
I did not sell my island until late 1931, to a charter boat with some Japanese. They purchased my island and renamed it Okinawa.
I did not fear missing Elaine’s wedding. The woman was primordially slow when it came to courtship and wedding planning. We’d been engaged since 1908 and she’d barely managed to engrave the wedding invitations in that time.
Cable: Dearest Elaine finally ready to settle down where are you?
Elaine: Crim married Bosh.
Reply: Pish and nonsense darling stop where are you?
In 1935, missing four toes, half a mustache, and the tip of my nose (restricted by the R.A.F. from discussing that incident), married Elaine’s dear elder sister. Settled down in St. Petersburg. Although the woman still paints nudes in the nude, she should not.
“Criminy, Crimson!” My wife. “Fetch me the society pages of the newspaper and read them aloud while I paint all three hundred pounds of the czar’s cousin. The czar’s cousin would also appreciate it if you peeled grapes and fed them to me, one by one. He likes the line of your neck, Crim.” She snapped her fingers to set me flying, hastily, to do what must keep this happy household.
It strangles my heart to watch my seamstress/paintress wife. It strangles my heart even more when Elaine and my dear brother Bosh visit with their six children and their cocker spaniel named Ralf. I have no cocker spaniel named Ralf. Wholly unfair, this world.