THE ART OF HISTORY MAKING
A CHRONICLE OF THE REVIVAL OF MOLEHILL *
Two years ago, while making a tour of the middle southern region, I made an astounding archaeological find in a place known as Molehill. To be honest, this discovery could hardly be dignified by so scientific a description, for I really found the artifact while rummaging through a waste basket in a long-abandoned building (I was looking for unspoilt paper to use in typewriting). The find was a manuscript: "A Chronicle of the Revival of Molehill" by one, Gibbin Nash.
Now Molehill is kind of a city within a city. To be accurate, it's the older section of a city – the place with the past and the large, clustered buildings. It rises, only slightly, above a vast farming plain and stands all to one side of a forbidding river. (Historians are quick to attribute the cynical and uncooperative behavior of the Molehill citizenry to a sense of impotence incurred by residing beside so unapproachable a body of water.)
Mr Nash makes frequent commentary on the character of Molehillians, his general view being that in Molehill one either works, diverts or sleeps – sometimes simultaneously: "...the work is intermittent and insignificant (beyond its peculiar function); ...during leisure hours citizens who are not engaged in some amateur sport are to be found buried within the confines of their domiciles – and there, too, is a good bit of amateur recreation...."
The forthcoming transactions are of but a moment in what has passed in Molehill; curiously enough, though, the episodes in this journal represent substantial lapses, in that they read in segments dated, and presumably recorded, at intervals of no fewer than twenty-one days each, condensed as if they were summations of a diary. Those familiar with Molehill will readily recognize that these events account for little or nothing today. Contemporary Molehill is so changed that those for whom the present holds too great a distraction will have to strain their imaginative faculties to reach that particular sweep of the second hand in the biography of Molehill.
Nash, the spectator of this chronicle, has, from notes and my advanced perusal of his journal, intimated that he was himself involved in what is to follow; however, his role is nebulous throughout.
But let him relate the essentials. – Hastings Merthmill Eaton
THE IDES OF MARS
The players in this history are numerous and their interrelationships intricate; as I have no notion as to whom this legacy might fall, if anyone, I will inform my reader briefly of each as they happen to my notice and pen. You will be spared my prolixity, for as you shall see I am not a writer but a journalist.
Rumors have come to me today that Cleo Comely and Bric Boogle have met with opposition in their efforts to initiate an appearance code in Molehill. Cleo, a sprightly youth making her way in Molehill, seems compelled to coax and cudgel our community out of its decay, despair and depravity. Pushing and parading her purpose before the errant eyes of business and civic leaders, she has managed to clean up and entertain the main part of Molehill, and win herself a healthy salary for it too.
Gossip has it that a few months ago she bumped into Bric Boogle in the cosmetic department of an expensive apparel shop, whereupon Bric, an overly groomed Molehill booster eyeing a comfortable city job, enlisted her in his fight to overcome mind-boggling stupidity in bringing about the reclamation of Molehill by the right sort. Bric, who is executive president of the Lots-to-Lose Club of Molehill, reportedly told Cleo that he had a vacancy she could fill, and besides he needed some young ideas.
Several days ago, a local newspaper, The Business Flyer, incidentally mentioned the aforementioned proposal of the pair. While a reporter was covering an outdoor concert of the Dirt-Belly Blues Bastards Band, he interviewed Cleo, who was not reluctant to recount her past and future achievements to the press. One of those was the Lots-to-Lose Club's upcoming sponsorship of a uniform appearance code before the Aldermen. Shortly thereafter, this statement was apprehended by Luigi Giovanni, who swore he would get his connections to prevent their insidious designs from taking effect.
Luigi belongs to the libertarian wing of the Molehill Snappers, a parody society determined to liven up the community at large by revealing Molehill in travesty. He fancies great civic innovations and accomplishments by that quasi-organization in making Molehill an autonomous commune with an unorthodox culture – by, above all else, providing an environment of entanglement and spectacle. Luigi, not disdaining the notion that to the victor go the spoils, immediately vowed to soil the neat plans of Cleo and Bric and moved to file a legal suit on behalf of the Flare Shop – whose clients stood most to be penalized if the appearance code was passed – in hopes of perhaps gaining a new suit for himself.
Soon, too, Isaac Pinpoint picked up on Luigi's challenge and was busy editorializing opposition to the code. Isaac is a professor of triviology at the local college. He is a frail pedant, with a dry, assuming air about his ideas; he has recently hinted of his early retirement from the schooling profession to take a more active part in the community (no doubt as a lecturer): that is to say, his efforts at publication have multiplied in frantic proportion to the approach of his professorial leave-taking. His local pieces include: "The Complete History of A. W. Goldberger's Shopping Market"; several pamphlet-length articles on local governmental mismanagement and uncontrolled growth, such as "Who'll Dot the I's?" and "What's Wrong With Racoons?", for the Madison-Molehill Mentor; and not a few words on "Life in Molehill in the Year Zero" for the Clique Reiterater, a magazine for advertisement which occasionally carries written material.
It seems that Isaac's ire was provoked because of some provision in the appearance code which would limit the age of clothing one would be permitted to wear on Molehill streets. Likewise, Penny Cloud, editor of the Madison-Molehill Mentor, was eager to publicize Isaac's points because of another provision restricting foreign combinations of attire, for instance, French hair-styles with a Mexican Indian blouse and New York knickers or a tailored English vest and cowboy boots.
Penny, a smallish, purposely prickly un-member of the Snappers, has a tight, fidgety physique which she throws around in a sort of athletic manner – just as she tosses about her scant education wherever it might obfuscate opponents, as well as friends, and add to her reputation for being deliberately unusual. And effective her tactics are, too, for she and the Snappers have forced a public debate between themselves and the Lots-to-Losers in hearing before the Molehill Aldermen. There Molehill externals will be addressed. – Gibbin Nash
WHEN APRIL FOOLS HAVE PIERCED TO THE ROOTE ...
The Lots-to-Lose Club brought its proposed appearance ordinance before the Aldermen. The hearing convened sans the spirit of compromise by which chemical incompatibles are reduced (democratically, that is) to such a diluted solution that afterwards neither element could give a toad's hair whether the yield endured or not.
While each side seemed steadfast in its respective opinions, I have been apprised that the factions were, given their side was waning, willing to concede minor points (in our politics, when numbers – or better, argumentative accoutrements – are about equal, the tactic for wringing concession is simply to hold out the longest without making concession – such lovers of peace are we). For instance, Bric was ready to amend several specifics, like his preference for the lighter colors over the darker ones, if only some generally applicable prohibition was established banning "vagrant dress and behaviour" from Molehill streets; however, he was not likely to give up his contention that a just punishment for transgressors was to herd them up and secretly truck them off to the next largest city and dump them in a park in the dead of night. In addition, Cleo would have readily forsaken her phrase "moderately studded and bedangled" (not to be confused with foppish) and substituted words like "new collegiate styles" in formulating the rule of thumb for judging decent dress; but again, she would hardly have given in on her opposition to the "inexpensive labels."
On the Snapper side of the issue, Isaac Pinpoint would have acquiesced to the ordinance if only it would permit period costume. While Penny Cloud went off on a tirade (in French) about how absurd the whole business was anyway since clothing is nothing more than a disgusting bourgeois cover-up. Luigi was prepared to pose to the Aldermen that a fitting punishment for offenders, should the ordinance pass, would be that the citizens of Molehill furnish them with the required wardrobe for free.
Of course the City sent its spokesmen to the hearing to vent official opinion. Stanley Plumbait and Lesly Catchal, the bureaucrats directed to absorb, postpone and excuse all interaction between Molehill activists and City Hall, performed that task admirably, saying nothing one could put a finger on. And there were several notables among the audience – most of whom were non-aligned, suffering from a manifestation of identity deficiency, a malady I call proximal abhorrence: meaning they totally agreed with one side or the other but completely despised whomever they agreed with. Prominent among these was Fret Stormby; Fret is a professional snob in charge of community deception for the Bankers" Bank and he is also president of the Molehill Good Art in Good Homes Society. Fret has been busy deluding both the Snappers and the -Losers.
Eventually the Aldermen got their words in on the proposal. Alderman E was adamant that the section entitled "Headdress and Coiffures" exclude toupees. Alderman C emphasized that "getting into one's dress is the most blatant intrusion into one's privacy." Alderwoman V hastily concurred, adding, "This question of confusing hairstyles with hats is particularly disconcerting." Alderman F interjected his usual eye-opening comments: "All this discussion is pointless; now what is the question we're discussing?"
All of this continued in much the same vein for an hour more with many persons stepping out of the chamber for "refreshment" after having their say. Then, hush broke the proceedings as Dullipp Slipshod, a building maintenance man not reputed for either his sobriety or his status in the community, ventured timidly to the rostrum. He apologetically asked: "I ain't educated much as you all, but, uh, I thought maybe since everybody here look so different anyhow, why don't Molehill just leave everythin" to go just like it is? And besides, this all don't sound right to me: ain't this all agains' the law – telling others how to appear?"
The City attorney was summoned and he confirmed the illegality of the measure. At that, most everybody left without a resolution. But there was little doubt that each, being unappeased, would continue to pursue his or her private purpose – yet in a more concealed fashion. – Gibbin Nash
Please permit me to broadcast my severest disapproval of the brazen shenanigans of Gibbin Nash – to say nothing of our pathfinder Uncle Merthmill. The rococo has been dredged up once more by Nash's writings, but this time tarnished beyond redemption. His manipulations of history reveal his deep contempt for event and personality alike. One might justifiably wonder if his complaining was to have been a punitive device or if it was to have served some instructive intent. I can only query: what vacancy calls forth such distortion and embroidery from his needle? He should have been a dressmaker.
Only a mole-person digs in this sort of dirt and shoves it around for all to witness. With his obtuse vision, Nash has staged a puppet show for us, and it is completely devoid of the descriptiveness and the delicacy of characterization which might have animated his cardboard settings and paper dolls. This first chapter reads like a farce from some degenerate era; there is not a single saving parable in his entire hovel of castoff words and sentiments.
– B. Sterner
How true! (This man Sterner has a fanatical distemper, a priggish lunacy – we must humor him as best we can.) – Hastings M. Eaton
MOLEHILL IN MAY
Having just rebounded from the latest bout between the Snappers and the Lots-to-Lose Club, Molehill is feeling the faint throbs of a fresh disorder. Waves of conjecture in wide circulation carry signals of some far-fetched scheme to harness our river, the Goawin, for promotional and, stretching the argument, for educational purposes. In order to dazzle the nickels and dimes from passers-by, one of our foremost designers, Erec O. VerDunn, in an illustrated story repeated for the precious few in the Reiterator, has submitted plans to our city for a river spectacular. His proposal calls for the erection of a huge Ferris wheel-like construction in the middle of the river. It goes without saying that this project would be built at public expense and O. VerDunn quickly offered his services along with his designs.
Visitors traveling through the city would somehow be enticed by the sight of this structure and the attendant pouting pleas of their kiddies to abandon their vehicles on the through-bridge and ride the thing down to the city. This trip, it should be pointed out, would be educational for the participants in that they would be afforded a panoramic view of our river system and, as the wheel makes the descending loop, be allowed an unprecedented inspection of it too, for their glass-enclosed cars would be plunged beneath the river's surface before turning to a stop.
But how clumsy of me, I failed to mention the full beauty of the project and its most convincing aspect for its -Loser backers. Riders, by way of being dashed from the sky to the river, will be lured to Molehill before they've had a chance to pass us by. There will be a place for them to temporarily dispose of their vehicles on the bridge and from that moment on they will be the captives of every commercial venture in Molehill. They will be tempted farther, inch by inch along the small peninsula under the bridge, by junk food and river trickets, like river-algae milkshakes and genuine driftwood toilet seats, spending every cent they have as they pursue the chain of cons, like dominoes, down the streets of Molehill – the end of their stay being the hockshops and the bus terminal or a distressed telegram home for another fix.
But the trump of the entire deal, to benefit us all and induce public financing, is that the Ferris wheel, from whence the effluence of this idea emits, will all the while be powered by the river's current and connected to a generator, thus providing electric energy to all of Molehill.
The only snag to this turn of events, however, is the very contentious Snappers, who like the Goawin boatmen smell some city-factured additive at the river's edge. The Mentor had supported suggestions to adapt the peninsula, on which the Ferris wheel and generator would be installed, into a natural recreational area where Molehillians could view the primitive elements of our riverscape and be diverted from the everyday money-mechanisms mainside.
The Snappers, therefore, have flooded out the ravenous enthusiasm swelling through the community for what they term "a swindle that will make the Grand Bazaar look like a bake sale." They have issued a call for a gathering down by the river so that others, including Erec's own brother, Simpson B. VerDunn, can present alternatives for public exploration.
– Gibbin Nash
HYMN NO. 357: "WHEN THE MOUTH OF JUNE IS PARCHED, SEEK NO RELIEF FROM TAINTED WATERS"
Many were those assembled by the Goawin who had designs for Molehill's river peninsula, and several were the conflicts between one plan and another. The last personage to arrive at the meeting was Mayor Wylie. His entry fitted his style of office holding: he was conveyed to the place by way of a carriage suspended from a cable stretched between City Hall and the river landing (it makes for quick getaways and an even quicker descent). Wearing the ever-present symbols of his administration – white belt and shoes – he eventually staggered to his chair (whether his behavior was the effect of momentum or due to some other imbalance I cannot say). From that seat, from that moment, he presided over the debate.
At the outset things took on the flavor of a carnival. The first presentation was in dramatic form: the local theatre troupe wants to have a theatre built on the site, so they acted their parts to stage their views. Their play was unremarkable and frankly I can recall nothing of it. Excepting this – the troupe displayed a genuine constancy in making this performance seem much like all their preceding productions, no matter how different in substance: though scripts change, the steady characters of our players are unyielding to their roles – they are careful never to disguise their respective personalities.
Then Isaac, costumed this time in the garb of a river captain, initiated the Snapper point of view. He pleaded the case for enshrining the river by building a museum in which everything found in, on or around the river might be contained on exhibit. But before he could further direct the imaginations of his hearers, they had skipped on by themselves and a volley of laughter and derisive comments – no small quantity of it from some river drunks present – reduced Isaac to silence. With head hung and eyes averted he passed beneath the glower of Bric Boogle and company.
Luigi and Penny, undiscouraged, held the incredulous attentions of most while arguing their intentions to develop the peninsula into a public campground: a place where gypsy violins and itinerant opera companies, along with the local tavern wits and freebooters, could wail and waste, free from the fetters of shelter and cover charges; where nude bathing would be indulged along with ill manners. There was no response; for the most part no one saw how their proposal differed from nondevelopment of the peninsula.
Simpson B. VerDunn rose ministerially to the rostrum and began to decry his brother Erec's method of quenching the thirsts of the -Losers by leading all Molehill to trough at the river. With a glint of prophesy in his eyes, Simpson enthralled his congregation with a poetic recitation of the beauties of the setting in which he spoke: "This simple theme of water, trees and sky cleanses and calms our urban souls; only here are we able to regain our concentration and apprehension of the majesty of nature. Noting but one fault in the peninsula's present condition, Simpson spent many utterances on the necessity of a high point: "We only hunger for a vantage point in Molehill, a place from which one can focus across a wide horizon and reflect on Molehill's proper place in a world not completely its own with which to toy. Molehillians lack a place where one might be seized by and submit to the sublimity of one's peculiar circumstances with the satisfaction of a baptism in eternal reoccurrence." Thereupon, sermonic metaphors spilled from his mouth in profusion: "Will we attempt to seduce travelers and hold them at their moral expense by vain contrivances, or shall we invite them as honored guests to a meal on which we ourselves would sup, as we have made it wholesome?"
By this time, you may well have surmised, the crowd was intoxicated by his testimony; then came the call: "Molehill, let us join in a spirit of self-sacrifice, let us build a mount here on this spot. If each Molehillian would bring but one bucket of earth a day from his holding and offer it here, a mountain would soon rise in the middle of this plainness from the patient endeavors of all our people. We, one by one, as individuals together, can clean up and set right this peninsula in the same spirit in which the great cathedrals were constructed, without cost to the city; for where the government does not buy, there the government does not abide."
Even the -Losers were bent a little by the strength, if not of the plan, of its delivery and impact. However, singularly unimpressed and even agitated was Mayor Wylie; he stood, inflated to intercession in the name of the civil authorities, to remind Molehillians that he would forbid the disposal of recyclables and combustibles for which he had prior claim. He declared a moratorium on the decision to commit the public to any project for Goawin peninsula, but said his favor would rest ultimately with the plan that would cost the least in taxing his efforts and winning his acclaim.
Which plan will be allowed? That depends primarily on who's doing the permitting. Who will build what? That, dear reader, is contingent on who's paying the tab. Will the project accepted preclude all others? That comes down to this: those who arc builders are determined to build, as wreckers are to demolish, irrespective of almost every other consideration. Time will tell the tale, but time in Molehill is a powerful rebuilder itself: it's all that is needed to still the most toxic projects and to keep Molehill on its path of progress – with or without human interference. – Gibbin Nash
Though there have been numerous proposals for rescuing Molehill from the clutches of decline, few have come to much. The banking houses of Molehill have contributed little to the revival and much to the inertia of our community. Even as it has become popular to respond vociferously in favor of every wayward and costly scheme designed to re-inflate the Molehill image, the banks have found it unnecessary to risk a cent of Molehillian deposits on these bank-endorsed programs. It may be further noted that in some cases they have benefited greatly from good publicity in The Business Flyer pertaining to their alleged interest and participation in this project or that, the completion, let alone the actual undertaking, of which we have never heard of again – none being the wiser, least of all our newspapers.
You may remember, Fret Stormby is the relations man at the Bankers" Bank. Dear Fret has gone to the Bankers" Bank and subsequently to The Business Flyer with a plan for a bank-sponsored museum annexed to the bank's Molehill branch. This small museum, as I understand it, will be for the purpose of displaying local artifacts (when they can be found) for the education of the clerical plebs and the edification of desperate artists. Some Snappers have gone so far as to suggest that the bank's board of directors be put on display occasionally since they are rare sights in the Molehill vicinity. The exhibits are to be open only on weekdays, and this for two reasons: foremost, the Bankers" Bank does not like people getting too close to their money when the building does not house the safe ratio of employees to customers of at least 100 to 1; and, only incidentally, Molehillians would not for any reason be seen within a block of a museum on a weekend. In a word, Molehill sidewalks are no competition for wrestling matches and front yard weed extermination campaigns; the streets are vacant but for the vehicle verifiers – those who spend weekends testing the limits of their speedometers, their engine's noise potential and vehicle maneuverability while being driven from the passenger side.
More of the Stormby proposal I do not know, except that he intends to have a reception preceding every exhibition and to serve wine and cheese. But please allow me a rather lengthy digression at this point to render my view of the state of Molehill's social and cultural life in general. After all, what, besides economics, is more important to the restoration of Molehill to its former glory, and what choice do you have but to suffer my rambling. Yes, you do have that one – goodbye. Those remaining who have not disallowed the following will have nothing to censure hereafter but their own poor judgment.
In that suspicions are bound to arise when the undertaker attempts to pass him-self off as a physician, I reluctantly stray from history to offer diagnoses and remedies for Molehill life. However, I make no claims that my reader would draw similar conclusions if he were more qualified and writing this chronicle in my stead. Those in the fray of events in Molehill can little afford to permanently offend those much akin to themselves: so few are publicly cogent here the dumb isolation would be horrible, Amid all the bickering in Molehill one prominent characteristic deserves qualified commendation: we Molehillians are quick to forgive – sometimes to our detriment – and are in turn easily forgiven. This grace is bestowed without the usual penance in apology or remorse.
As I have mentioned previously, our primary interest in Molehill is amusement, but too little has been said by local historians even of the entertainment value of our politics. (The amusement motive, I think, accounts for the irresolute manner in which every controversy is quieted.) We are ever ready to be entertained and desirous of every opportunity to forget. Molehillians consider it a social obligation for our enfeebled aristocrats, our city government and, more frequently nowadays, our corporations to give us an occasional festival as well as an on-running burlesque of their respective roles in the community.
Though few of the heroic attributes, like an implacable revenge, survive in Molehill today, all the ancient virtues and vices persist in an adulterated and diluted state. One such diminution is our version of the feast, banquet and orgy – these varied forms of strange human behaviour we call generally the "party. The party, as I am familiar with it, is a monthly or annual duty: the type of function where one searches in vain for the opportune moment to exit from one's initial step through the door, The chief combatants presented in this chronicle thus far also perform this ritual, both factionally and jointly.
It is deemed a very cruel act for our educators to school their students in the appreciation of rare tastes for which there are no provisions made in adult life, however, often that happens anyway; so impresarios of a sort are always in demand to assuage the hunger for refined consumption. The Snappers exemplify the effects this acquisition has on human expectations. Whether it be Fret Stormby all in a puff from start to finish of his receptions, trying to make sure all the ingredients are from the right source and that all the preparations are served properly (and that everyone present is made aware they are and have been), or Penny Cloud, requiring each guest to display a sufficient artistic temperament, the Snapper party is a manifestation of inadequate substitutes for rarefied habits. Among other Snappers, the party is supposed to be "spontaneous," meaning only that a location, ten minutes warning and some victuals are supplied by the host; the object of the endeavor is for the host not to botch his supplies or fail to stupefy all the guests before they tire of enjoying themselves; should they become disgruntled and restless, they will, for their part, attempt to destroy the host's household and keep him wake all night. Amusements are a must which are hardly ever provided by those of the professional class (apparently conversation will suffice). Nevertheless, so as not to malign the Snappers, they are taking advantage of the only alternative left to their disposal in an adolescent culture but scarcely beyond puberty.
All of which conjures up another digression, Molehill is in essence a cultureless community; not for any inherent inability to appreciate the traditions of artistic and intellectual excellence, but because of a lack of the traditions themselves and the literature and models to transmit those which might be imported. Culture to us is an artificially packaged, extraneous item which can only be poorly merchandised, not lived with daily. Should some fragment of culture accidentally come to one of us, it is held to be an infertile possession which one retains in private places like some over-precious curiosity.
But a note must be laid down about the Lots-to-Lose Club's parties. Very often, our largest paper, The Business Flyer, devotes whole sections of its valuable pages to the bric-a-brackery of the exceptional people. These articles and pictures of the powered elite among the moneyed elite reveal them in the light of a closet intrusion – a pack of mutual admirers armed to their stiff white collars with a repellent fatuity. Only their catering and laundering bills are more impressive than their smug facades.
Gossip is an essential element in any of these gatherings – and the greatest delight of those whose conversational stores are ill stocked. One word only on this account and I'll withdraw: when one is privy to tantalizing news had from a mere acquaintance out of oath, one's friends should not have to prime, pump, and promise reimbursement with interest to have at it – don't you agree? No pledge should be asked except the perfunctory "you mustn't tell anyone" – which is not held to be binding in any legitimate society. Yet despite this forceful reasoning I have bound myself irretrievably to silence on many matters that would be of interest to a history of Molehill. That being the case, I can divulge nothing more intriguing to you at this time. – Gibbin Nash
THE VISITATION OF ATTILINA
Not content to be a small fish in a little pond, our Penny Cloud, former editor of the Madison-Molehill Mentor and ex-Snapper, withdrew several weeks ago to the big city to the south – where she promises to become an exotic morsel for the big fish in a larger pond. This retreat was effected shortly after a skirmish with her archrival the editor of The Business Flyer. In the aforementioned interview Penny accused that gentleman of being no less than a "word whore who would sell [his] least opinion to [his] paper's advertising clients"; at which he responded sorely, but silently, less to the damage of the assault than to the ingratitude of Penny, a mere propagandist in his eyes, who had had the audacity to arrange an audience with a ranking colleague and in-convincible adversary for the sole purpose of showing him disrespect. In a business-like manner he kept astraddle the corner of his desk and sustained the blow. However, neither is Penny one to be content with being tolerated: she added to insult by way of calling his sipping whiskey "harsh and affected." At that, the long-patient editor of The Flyer rose from his superior position and knocked her to the floor by tossing her a special unabridged single-volume desk edition of "The Decline and Fall". As reports of the office melee and its concomitant gems of gallantry began circulating in literary circles, Penny hastily retired from Molehill.
Immediately upon her departure, Isaac Pinpoint made a stab at the editorship of the Mentor, a position which he had always coveted and which it was generally conceded later he obtained by default only. Eager to stew Molehill's dominant political figures and institutions in their own muck, he raked it into the pages of the Mentor, preserving it for all posterity – what his opponents call "litterature." Isaac is, indeed, adept at paraphrasing the top stories from The Flyer and Reiterator, simply omitting the bottom portion of the iceberg where details are concerned. And his wit – Isaac's wit singes with the fervor of a day-old cigarette butt.
No sooner had Isaac published a couple of issues of the Mentor than Penny countermarched on Molehill for a weekend visitation to the provinces, bearing a few journalistic pointers and a carpetbag of bad manners with which to bombard Isaac, in whose house she had decided to pitch her tent for the duration. As is a customary tactic of hers, Penny's postcard announcing her arrival was delivered one day after she showed up. Soon Isaac, as host and successor, fell beneath her hacking criticism, held like a battle-ax above his head and wielded whenever a lull lay momentarily upon his household.
After refusing to eat dinner with the Pinpoints because the food was either "too heavy" or not prepared in the French tradition, she proceeded to sit at the table deprecating the Pinpoints" taste in furnishings and the "disgustingly comfortable" style in which they lived. Then, smoking battalions of her home-rolled cigarettes as the Pinpoints ate, she mounted a flank engagement while thumbing through Isaac's rarest books – anthologies for the most part. As Isaac looked on, trying to swallow his meal and his tongue, Penny flipped through as many as she could in the time allotted; nibbling from the serving plate as she browsed, she randomly left tomato sauce smudges on the pages to mark her mastery and the extensiveness of her campaign.
If that was not enough – you see what a spineless fellow Isaac can be – she then commenced scratching his favorite classical albums in the process of selecting the "best cuts" from a "rather limited collection," and he still did not imitate the spontaneous good judgment of the editor of The Flyer and repeat the memorable heaving of the big book scene but remained seated, though visibly shaken, mumbling.
The first and last evening of her stopover at Isaac's, Penny could hardly abide spending much more time with the Pinpoints than it took to ruin their Friday night; so she borrowed their vehicle and made a sortie on Molehill. She drove round to "my" bar for a night of toasting and boasting of her exploits in the new city with her old cronies, contrasting with vindictiveness, as she rallied to drink, the grand opportunities and the superb selection of goods available in that place as opposed to those inferior offerings of Molehill – much to the delight and stimulation of her company, who soon left her.
Abandoned deep into the next morning, Penny returned to the Pinpoints with her usual delicacy and regard for others and rushed to deliver the dinner that she would hardly be served onto the freshly spread linens of Isaac's guest bed – an accident which the Pinpoints failed to be made aware of until their discovery of the facts after she had gone. Not before leaving Isaac's did she cease the maneuver so typical of her by which she avoids her own ignominy by taking the offensive, persecuting everyone with the least disposition to allow it.
Fewer were sad at her second parting than were unsettled by her original departure. Happiest yet was Isaac Pinpoint, who suffered much by her mouth and who has so little else to fall back on in life but his tremendous self-esteem. During her raid on Molehill, Penny gave her all toward depriving him of even that fragile asset. – Gibbin Nash
A SHAHDY SHOWING
The current topic of whispers and gasps in Molehill stems from events which had their beginning two weeks ago Thursday. (Even though my darling wife demands that they began Friday, this is my journal and that which is committed to writing is always the last word – historically that is. Anyone aspiring to detect the movers of history, or find humor for that matter, must have some firsthand experience of the marital state; otherwise, one can not fully appreciate the vacillations of human history, the vulnerability of its named figures, or the sagaciousness of its unnamed movers.)
But as I was saying, with masculine determination, it was two weeks ago last Friday that the Shah of Pshaw came to Molehill on the invitation of the Lots-to-Lose Club. There to meet him at the city's portals were Bric Boogle, Mayor Wylie, several aldermen, and a few bureaucrats, notably Stanley Plumbait and Leslie Catchal. The Shah, having come to Molehill to inspect the numerous investment possibilities, was greeted with a valuable gift, described in the Reiterator as "a two-inch guitar-shaped ring studded with polished, multi-colored stones from the bed of the Goawin River." The objet d'art evoked only a slight questioning grimace from the Shah, who seemed to have difficulty bending the finger on which the ring was placed, for the ring's slim guitar neck extended up past his knuckle, acting like a split, leaving that single finger erect at all times – making for many a snicker from the galleries as he passed along the procession route through Molehill.
After many parties in his honor, and tours guided by Bric Boogle and Mr Plumbait, it was announced in The Flyer that the Shah had contracted to put a sizeable amount of his country's money into a restoration project on our river bluff. The Lots-to-Lose Club was much elated at the prospects, especially Mr Boogle, and the city, too, in the person of Stanley Plumbait, was equally conspicuous in its gaiety and relief at the forthcoming influx of capital into the city and the conversion of useless warehouses into taxable luxury apartments.
However, it was at the point of greatest happiness that Isaac Pinpoint, having done hours of investigative leg-work in the pages of The Flyer and the Reiterator, disclosed that Bric Boogle and Stanley Plumbait were, in his opinion, overly appreciative of the Shah's business dealings in Molehill and that they, strangely enough, were the only signatories to the contract with Pshaw. And thus ensued one of Pinpoint's notorious bottom-line headlines: "Could this fact conceal improprieties in the handling of the Pshaw Agreement? Huh?"
While Isaac was asking these questions of his readers, The Flyer was asking Mayor Wylie how it was that Messrs Boogle and Plumbait had been allowed to persuade the Shah to invest in property that they had purchased during his visit to Molehill. It seemed to The Flyer that Boogle and Plumbait had been developing their real estate interests on the Loser organization's and city's time respectively, or irrespectively, and at the expense of private enterprise. As The Flyer tells it, the Mayor replied: "Well, this certainly opens my eyes. I'll watch those two in the future and won't be left out next time."
In an attempt to sort out the predicament, Plumbait made a credible case for resting the blame on Catchal, who, he said, was instructed to issue a notice to the public prior to the purchase so as to give anyone else interested a chance to buy in on the Pshaw bonanza. And besides, added Plumbait, "Brie and I reimbursed our employers for the time we spent on these negotiations by entertaining the Shah on our off hours."
On Boogie's side of the muddle, in addition to seconding Plumbait's story, he bit back: "Wasn't I commissioned by the business community and asked by Mayor Wylie's staff to help revive Molehill's tax base? Wasn't I given a certain budget and the latitude by both organizations with which to effect these ends? I have succeeded in fulfilling the requisitions of both and have in the act retained in my care close oversight of the development at substantial savings, without loss, to the Molehill community. The developers of Molehill understand this arrangement and you don't hear them squawking – and if any of them feel inclined to, they'd better think twice about it first."
Many in Molehill have been left scratching their heads over these answers. Isaac is still researching the accounts in The Flyer and the Reiterator, apparently convinced that in lieu of anything else this controversy is good for a few more issues. More than likely there will be no other reprimand of either participant to exceed the one given by Mayor Wylie to Stanley that the likes of the situation should not be exposed again. Too, there will certainly be no prosecution of these men in the courts: under our system of law, a system predicated on the protection of and non-interference with private enterprise, there are no such animals as public prosecutors. In other words, we have laws but their enforcement depends on the voluntary pursuit of and dedication to principle by unpaid persons in the law business – unpaid by the taxpayers directly that is. So just as our reformers refuse to serve principle when there is no salary or retainer involved, our lawyers will not press the law in protracted litigation with prominent citizens when there is no chance of finding a pot of gold at the end of the process.
We in Molehill do not generally disdain the smooth making of a buck. In fact, those who are adroit at spending other people's money for the enrichment of themselves and incidentally to the indirect benefit of the community are something of heroes. Those who protest loudly are usually thought to do so because they regret that the money was not thrown in their direction.
At any rate, the land targeted for the development is being eroded into the river and the warehouses burned down Saturday night while some inebriated Snappers were frying catfish two miles up river. Nevertheless, not a cent of Pshaw's money appears to have been lost to Molehill: what the Shah had contracted to do at the burned out location he will now do up river toward Goawin peninsula on some land owned by The Flyer. – Gibbin Nash
Notice to the descendants of Molehill:
In the next installment of his journal, Mr Nash addresses himself to the religious aspects of Molehill life. Included in that entry is an introduction to the Reverend Titcomb Butley and his wife Ophelia. – Hastings Merthmill Eaton
IN THE TEMPLE OF ART, DON'T SAY AHEM, BROTHER.
The marital state: What queer wonders are wrought when two people, both of different backgrounds, with varied talents and peculiar habits, are by some orchestration of accidents suddenly linked in perpetual political alliance: that is to say, teamed against the world to make their new, fictionalized backgrounds, talents and habits predominate to their joint benefit. The couple then is that combination of tendencies which temporarily accommodates what is most tolerable in both to effect what is most favorable to the pair – and in many cases what is least acceptable to the world they set upon. For example, today, Sunday, I was round the corner at the One & Only Conglomerated Church for the dedication of a new sanctuary; while there I encountered the Reverend Titcomb Butley and his wife Ophelia in sermon and reception.
The One & Only Conglomerated Church is a splinter religion from the Semi-Christian Unity Church of Churches. It is, in the words of one of its principal founders, "an agreeable religion which derives its creed from the popular beliefs of its worshippers: a faith of compromise, allowance and the strict adherence to the current theme." In Molehill, where one selects a church as one does a school – based on the social and business possibilities inherent in the choice – the study of theology and the development of virtues are hardly considerations in the marketing of a faith. This is most obvious in the practice of founding new religions by the eclectic, tossed-salad method witnessed today: whatever is in season is tasteful – and therefore sacred.
The new sanctuary is truly reflective of the congregational makeup of the One & Only and its pick-and-choose menu of beliefs. It was designed and built by the many professional engineers and architects, mechanics, carpenters and masons, sculptors and painters that compose the One & Only and its conglomerated credo. The building itself is difficult to describe for its very lack of definition: that is other than to remark that it consists of every architectural component inherited from religious houses throughout history, cemented, so to speak, by modern structural technology and tastes. The veneer utilizes two tones of stained cedar in a pattern resembling the exterior of the famous Florentine Duomo. Reinforced concrete is much visible in the form of eight huge buttresses on each corner of the octagonal structure. The ceiling is of steel space trusses with stained plastic interspaces. Immediately behind the pulpit, which shares one of the eight faces with the choir and orchestra on either side, is a huge glass and steel wall with clear and ochre colored glass arranged in one large abstract design. This window opens out onto a lushly landscaped cloister, enclosed by vaulted A-shaped arches, which perfectly matches in size and shape the octagonal sanctuary within.
So, should one tire, as one did, of the preachings of Titcomb Butley, there is still something for the spirit in the building itself, and plenty of consolation in the anticipation of a solitary walk in the cloister yard when dictums are distant murmurs.
On this day of dedication I met Titcomb Butley for the first time, as did most of his congregation, while performing his official duties, for he confines his public appearances to small selected gatherings, and the residue of his time is spent either with his wife at meals and other comforts or, in the words of Ophelia paraphrasing the Reverend Butley, "in a bout with creativity." Not once during his sermon on "The Creative Man and His Stewards" did I hear the name of a single god invoked; however, that statement is true only if one exempts the name of his favorite idol, "holy art." The portly reverend shuffled to the pulpit and cleared his throat in a subdued growl. In a resonant voice (incidentally, nothing like his conversational voice) he commenced his address like this: "I won't detract from this joyous moment by denouncing our rivals in faith. Today we solemnly celebrate creation, our own creation of ourselves: how our ideas, our plans, our skills and our money have been imbued with a unique significance: have resulted in a new faith and a model structure for the worship of works well done and for the shelter of the body of man in our many endeavors to come." He then elaborated on the importance of every function in the hierarchy of creativity: "Production is the essential unit of work by which creation is brought before the eye whole and intact. Nevertheless, this sanctuary was not just conceived and put to paper by its planners; nor was it built solely by the labor of its craftsmen. This sanctuary was created too, so to speak, by the stewardship of its congregation; and you, dear friends, will be contributing to this edifice for many years to come."
Concluding, after numerous parables which extolled the merits of using talents early and urged stewardship on their behalf, he pleaded, "Now we've contracted a percentage of our money and time to the creation of the conglomerate; we should make that portion ever larger until it consumes our lives in the heat of building."
Afterward there was a reception which all of the church's distinguished devotees attended, including the grave philanthropist Judge Thudd and the acclaimed painter Fuloney Aktinschplash. There too was the omnipresent Ophelia Butley. Like her husband, she is on the well fed end of the flesh spectrum. If her talk on this occasion is a reliable gauge, she has an eye and ear on everyone's affairs and a mouth accustomed and suited to providing her friends with the finds of her surveillance. She spent most of her time next to a table of sweet delicacies, swaying slowly in her watchful stance beneath her chartreuse muumuu and white shawl. She was heard to be particularly enthusiastic about the chocolate-covered strawberries and the hot honey punch. After making all the necessary stops to the "lucrative supporters" of her husband's religion, she gravitated to a largish cane-seated chair in the shade of the cloister walk-way to sit surrounded by a group of confidantes. Once, while nodding good-day to the group, I overheard her say something about what pyramid power had done for her waterbed; then they all began to cackle at her mention of the phrase "primal donut."
As afternoon ensued, Titcomb Butley left his post at the cloister gate and came over to a small conference of which I was a participant. He asked several of us about the sound of some of the phrases used in his sermon. He then began to recite some verse that he said he started composing while working as a province tax collector during his days of seminary studies and had but lately finished while receiving people in the reception line.
Before terminating the gathering, members of the congregation performed two chants accompanied by the Butleys" daughter on flute. Then Titcomb and Ophelia Butley strolled together, as near arm-in-arm as matter would allow, bestowing as sincere an interest in each of the one hundred or so people remaining as is humanly possible for two people to do in unison in thirty minutes. They displayed an air of relieved control as they paraded by, looking like two self-satisfied partners who had just successfully concluded a risky but profitable venture.
The concluding chant, composed by Titcomb for the mass departure of all in attendance, emphasized the combination of Molehillians for purely creative ends and voiced the hope that all would soon abandon fractionalism for its own sake and "direct the concentration of self on the One & Only." – Gibbin Nash
A Comment from Chronicle Discoverer & Editor:
Due to the skittishness of the editor of this publication, who undoubtedly mistakes good eager readers for worthless boobs, the sunlight and blue skies won't find this chronicle on these pages ever again.
I will not continue to allow the editor to string the Nash history along in slivers and chunks at random for no other reason than his being hard pressed for copy. I believe this man would unashamedly offer the evening news as an annual at a weekly subscription or be so callous as to publish a chronicle comparable to that of the great Suetonius in one-page installments over several decades. – Hastings Merthmill Eaton
(Abuse continued below.)
This being the deplorable state of the case, perhaps you'll be content to know that the prospects are favorable that you'll be able to obtain a complete edition of "...The Revival of Molehill". But until that day, rest assured that Molehill will not budge. – G. Murley
*Previously published in PINCH, April 1977 – August 1978, Memphis, TN. (Written anonymously & published by G. D. Murley, Jr.)