Thursday, April 02, 2009

Galileo’s Shrivelled Finger

A crow’s spit from the train station sat a tiny tavern, the sign over the window inviting the thirsting to enter. Fishing in his pocket for change, silver dollars and silver-plated nickels, copper pennies and fifty-cent pieces, he decides to slake his thirst, the sign beckoning him to enter. Upon entering he notices a fat man with a fat woman sitting at a table in the corner, the fat man trying to cajole the fat woman into having another drink. ‘…have one more my dear, I implore you please…’ . ‘…but no, I can’t…’ she says. ‘…what could it hurt…?’ he asks. ‘…but I have an appointment...’ says the fat woman sharply, the fat man squinting angrily.

Across the room, his back to the fat man and fat woman, a man sits reading his newspaper, the front page announcing the following, “Galileo’s shrivelled finger is to go on display in an exhibition in Florence to mark the 400th anniversary of his first observation of the skies. The middle digit from his right hand was removed from his corpse in 1737 when his body was transferred to a mausoleum. Galileo was condemned by the Catholic Church as a heretic during his lifetime but the Vatican has become more tolerant toward him in recent years”. He finishes reading the paper, folds it neatly in half and places it on the table in front of him, the fat man and fat woman all but oblivious to his presence. Stepping up to the bar (neither the fat man nor the fat woman acknowledging him) the proprietor giving him the once-over, he says ‘…a Las Cumbres my dear man …?’ His face a scribbler of childish confusion, the proprietor says ‘…Panama or Uruguay…?’ Looking askance at the proprietor the fat man says ‘…another potboiler dear man…’. ‘…and for the lady…?’ asks the proprietor. ‘…she’ll have a Burgas and lime…’.

…all this Cadillacing round making sow’s ear out of a mole hill; astonishing. Makes a man want to spit up. That crab bastard Galileo and his telescopic genius, all done with poke and fear oar. …bastard probably had the dose falling every everywhere out a the telescope of his ass. …all lowed down with the sniffles and pirouettes. …pump-room brawler, cheapskate. The chapo reading the newspaper cleared his throat and yawed, ‘…not what I’d call a slim Jim, all that flab and ring-a-rounds...’.

Having made a fool of himself the fat man left by the back door and took a tonic in the brawler, the fat woman chewing the half moons off her nails. ‘…I say…’ said the newspaper reading chapo, ‘…that Galileo was some cad bastard…’. Stepping backwards the proprietor took in the tavern, the sun streaming in through the barroom window playing fancy with the tabletops. ‘…removed the corpse hand-over-hand, planted the poor bastard downside up…’. ‘…not surprising…’ says the chapo ‘…and the awful smell, like Yale cabbage left out to spoil in the sun…’. Stepping forward, legs jimmying, the proprietor drew a smile across his dower face, ‘…right you are my dear man, right you are…’.

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"Poetry is the short-circuiting of meaning between words, the impetuous regeneration of primordial myth". Bruno Schulz

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