Monday, May 19, 2008


"I think I'm going to get a stick to put my head on."

Gustav was fond of collecting skulls. There were many around his house. But none were on sticks.

"Yes, I will indeed have to find a stick on which to place my head."

He walked down the road to town. A car came up and he had to move over onto the grass beside him to make way. It made a racket over the cattle catcher grating. Gustav hated them. Cattle don't walk around here so much any more, he thought, do we really need them? Yes, they did, but he did not understand that. He was foolish.

Gustav lived in a very small country town, and would purchase his skulls in the city. He was afraid to tell anyone in town about his hobby. He had friends who had been chased away from their homes and one who had been killed for having an interest in pagan religions. The skulls, he figured, would go over badly with his neighbors.

The town was essentially a loose conglomeration of houses with one main street where the few shops and restaurants were placed. It was probably more accurately labeled a "village," but the locals were resentful of such a name. They believed it made them sound small, not just the town, but the people themselves. And so everyone called it a town, and corrected any visitors passing through.

He entered the town from the side road off of which his house was located. He walked down the rows of buildings, looking in shop windows on either side, wondering where he might be able to purchase a suitable stick. He saw no prospects, and so kept walking down the road, until he reached the home of a friend.

Friedrich was prone to somewhat erratic behavior. He might go off wandering somewhere all of a sudden, his only explanation being that he had things to do (or that something must be done, in some cases it was not clear whether it was he that had to do anything or if it was just that someone had to, and no one realized this but him). He had grown a large beard that was just beginning to turn gray from his usual dark brown, and expanded outwards in all directions from his face. His behavior had created friction with the other residents of the town, and this friction left him with an open mind. He and Gustav had become good friends.

"Gustav!" Friedrich held on to the vowels of his friend's name, hoping this would serve as evidence of his excitement. "Friedrich, I have a problem. I need a stick."

"For your heads?"

"Yes! How did you know?"

"Of course! Allie and I have been saying you need at least one stick in that room for months now! You're running out of room, you know," he said, shaking his index finger up in the air, close to his own face, like a grandfather trying to teach a lesson. He brought Gustav in.

Friedrich lived in a very large house. He had a second floor and a basement. The air was thick, on almost every visit Gustav made, with a variety of smells. He could tell that some of it was tobacco smoke, and some must be from scented candles and he could usually see at least one stick of incense, but there were still usually two or three indiscernible smells.

Downstairs there was laughter, loud music, and clinking glasses. Friedrich was often host to revelry, Gustav understood. He was an author, and apparently fairly popular in some of the more cultured circles of foreign countries. He traveled often, to London, Paris, New York... He would send Gustav postcards or letters with pictures of himself with some famous artist or musician or filmmaker of whom Gustav had no knowledge (unless Friedrich had made an effort to introduce Gustav to their work at some point). Earlier in his career his life had been quieter. This was when the wandering was more common, and his friction with the locals had begun. Lately he had kept largely to himself for the most part, speaking almost only to Gustav.

His friends would come in from the larger neighboring town. Theirs was almost a legitimate city. They had many roads and buildings. Gustav found employment there in an office building. He sometimes wished he lived there, but often cursed the noise and strangeness of the town and its people. And this was nothing compared to the actual, legitimate city which was some distance past that place. On occasion, friends would visit Friedrich from the city, but their visits always involved complaints about the lack of public transportation and suggestions that he move. Gustav did not like the city people, and would only visit the city if he had no choice.

"Well," Friedrich began, "you won't be finding a suitable stick in this small village--"

"Town," Gustav corrected.

"...yes. No, we will have to be making a trip into town."

"Into the town just a while down the road, you mean? I wouldn't like to have to go all the way to the city..."

"I know, I know you don't like the city. Don't worry. I have friends here from town. We can go down and collect someone to accompany us."