Johnnersintheraw's Blog

May 20, 2010

Tortured Soles

Of Shoes and Fish, Your Usual Russian Epic and the Seven Wee Blisters from Minsk

You were expecting, perhaps, one of my interminable reinterpretations of a novel by Dostoyevsky or even a psycho-analytical dissertation discussing the parallels between my haunted, harrowing and putrid existence and that of one of the minor characters of Chekov?  A peasant, perhaps, one that was only glimpsed fleetingly through the winter’s blast before being cleaved in twain by one of the Three Sister’s troikas.  Needless to say, it was one of the lesser sub-plots, and the one that the artistic director of the Moscow Arts Theatre excised the minute the playwright shoved the script through the transom. No, I’m sorry, I’m thinking of the wrong play.  AND the wrong author. What the Dickens is wrong with me today.  It must have something to do with those nude photos that… but never mind.

Of course, of course, of course. It couldn’t have been The Three Sisters!  They were the ones that spent four hours of the audience’s time yearning to go to Moscow.  But – I ask myself – why didn’t they just….GO?  I mean, it wasn’t as if they didn’t have any money.  And as far as I know their suitcases had never been unpacked since the moment they first arrived at the dacha.  I mean, why else would they make the audience sit through an entire sixteen acts and eighty-one intermissions and still be wearing the same dresses?   Weren’t they smart enough to realise all they had to do was to open just one suitcase, and take out just one extra dress for each of them?  And that way, they could keep the other suitcases closed in the off-chance it might occur to them that all they needed to do in order to go to Moscow was to buy three train tickets and ask someone to give them a lift to the station.  And even if they hadn’t wanted to unpack (for surely, that would have been tempting fate), you would have thought that, being sophisticated enough to understand the concept ‘a Moscow where there were actually more than three peasants and a pet cow’, that there were also to be had – for just a few kopeks a day (plus a glass of tea and a pontchiki) – those wonderfully convenient unemployed factotums called ‘daily dressmakers’. I mean, if I was aware of them some sixty or so years later, wasn’t it possible that – not having such things as shops near the dacha – they probably had one or two extra seamstresses lurking somewhere in a back bedroom?  Or were the seamstresses the ones who had been run over by the troika?  In any case, the three sisters were supposed to have been women, and women are supposed to know everything – even if at times they try to convince you otherwise by opening their mouths and speaking.

Be that as it may, they didn’t open a single suitcase and they didn’t phone up the daily dressmaker.  They just sat and moaned and groaned and whinged about the fact that they were not on their way to Moscow. And all the time, they were wearing the same dresses.  For God’s sake, couldn’t they have at least changed their underwear?

Speaking as an audience member, it’s very boring to sit through a whole seven nights with the same dialogue being repeated over and over and over again. If I had wanted that, I would have just stayed at home and watched old episodes of ‘Friends’! At least in ‘Friends’ they did change their clothes occasionally, and if I remember correctly, Phoebe even experimented with her hairdo.  If only, the characters in ‘The Three Sisters’ had been so inventive; but, alas, it was the same people on the same stage pretending to be in the same house, and always talking about exactly the same thing night after night, and they were not even interested enough in our sanity to change their costumes at least once every three weeks.  Come to think of it, it could have been ‘Friends’ after all. But to tell the truth, after the tenth week of whomever they were still not buying a train ticket and still not changing their clothes, I started to worry about their body odour.  I mean, by the time they finally got everything sorted out, it must have been like sitting next to King Henry VIII up there on stage.

And then, for no particular reason, except by that time I had run out of ‘After Eight’ mints, I started to think about Madonna.  Not that I particular like Madonna, for I must say I am not all that enamoured of fifty-year old women doing the squats on stage and pretending to seduce males dancers who are more than seventy-five years younger than they are, but at least she does change her clothes.  And she changes he clothes very often.  For she seems to have a great many clothes – right up there on stage with her.  And if most of them are actually more like parts of clothes than they are actual clothes, at least she’s not always sitting around wearing the same thing.  Mind you, I do worry sometimes about all those clothes of hers.  They are so small, practically not there at all. And then there are her muscles, all pneumatically pumped up and looking just like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s muscles used to look, before he decided to become governor of California and turn himself into a ‘Hummer’.

Which reminds me, now that General Motors has discontinued the ‘Hummer’, have they also discontinued Arnold Schwarzenegger?  Or is he still covered by some sort of warranty or other for his spare parts.  Or was the warranty from Saturn?

But back to the problem of Madonna and her tight clothes.  How does she get them on and off?  Or does she just have them painted on so everyone thinks she has all these neat clothes into which she is always changing?  And in case you wanted to know, I am only asking this to give you something to think about while the three sisters are up on stage doing nothing except talking about going to Moscow.  At least if they had had Facebook they could have cut out the talking and just fiddled about with their laptops.  Unless, of course, they had been Skype addicts, but then there might have been a mass suicide involving audience members in the cheaper seats.

And this brings me neatly back to the question of why is it that some people say they are changing into new clothes?  What happens to their bodies?  After all, once they have changed into new clothes, what fills up the space their bodies once occupied?  They must have gone somewhere, for I am informed that nature abhors a vacuum.  Perhaps they go to that place where all the odd socks go?  Or perhaps, they prefer to go to that other place, the place where their lost shopping lists go.

Now, I am not particularly interested in the place odd socks go.  First of all, most of them are not mine, and I was always told as a child never to wear another person’s socks, if only because another person’s socks were often filled with another person’s feet, and another person’s feet were at the end of another person’s legs, and another person’s legs were on intimate terms with another person’s blessed orifices.  And personally, anything that has had anything to do with another person’s blessed orifices is immediately a suspicious character.  What I am trying to say is, where have this other person’s blessed orifices been spending their time?  And what exactly have they been doing during all that time they have been doing whatever it is they have been doing?  Besides which, isn’t it just possible that one of those ‘lost’ socks might be the very same ‘lost’ sock that had been – at one time – on the foot that had been in the male stripper’s slipper, and from which a certain fifty-year-old singer had been drinking the sort of  champagne that is usually found in a urinal?

When it gets down to it, lost socks are not very interesting to talk to.  But where is it they run off to?  It goes without saying that if I had been born a sock, I would have been angry with my lot in life.  And I would have asked my parents, “Why have I been born a sock, when my own cousin was at least born a Brussels’ Sprout?” For since nobody likes Brussels’ Sprouts all that much, they tend to live very long lives once they are put in that bottom drawer in the refrigerator – but not, of course, as long as the broccoli, which is never taken out until it turns into a blackish goo.  Socks, however, lead a thoroughly miserable life. They are the true downtrodden members of our society.  So can you really blame them if one day – as they are being taken to the washing machine to be sloshed around in dirty water with a lot of underwear that insists on showing you photographs of their favourite skid-marks – the odd socks decide to make a run for it?  Of course, by the time they run away they have been around the block a few times and have been battered and bruised by pebbles who have climbed into the sock’s personal person just to get a free ride.  And then, of course, their toes have been torn to shreds by toenails that simply refuse to cut themselves (having read an illustrated article on the cruelty of circumcision, in which the victims appear to look very much like themselves); these socks have been subjected to no end of infections, and have been forced to endure countless hours suffocating from foul-smelling feet.  So, as I said, by the time they make their move and finally run away, they are older and wiser, as well as very circumspect.  So what they do is leap from the bundle of wash that is being shoved so unceremoniously into the wash, and they run and hide behind the machine.  And when they finally hear their person leave the house to go to work, they slip quietly out the back window.  And into a waiting sock-rocket, which takes off like a flash to a destination unknown to any human (but which is possibly known to dogs).

The sock-rocket does not immediately go to the planet of the lost socks, for first it must pick up all the other fleeing socks, as well as the odd pairs of stockings and even a bedroom slipper or two.

Now, being the lowly human being that I am, I cannot fathom what a place it must be, this planet of the lost socks.  But I fancy it must be quite a conducive place, and one on which every sock from every foot from every person on earth want to be.

But how about the lost lists, I hear you say?  And why do we never see them again?  That is one question I cannot answer, my friends.  I can only say this, once I write my list and put in my pocket, I never ever see it again.  Does it go to a far-off planet?  Does it travel to the stars?  Does it frolic with all of its friends on a lagoon in the Milky Way?  Or does it like going back to the woods to see its aunt, the tree?  And does it lie at her feet for a year and a day, until it turns into mulch?  For I firmly believe that every list we do lose, is not intentionally cruel.  For every list knows, once they’re no longer around, their place will taken by the next list in the queue.  And then it is free to turn back into a tree – and unlike a sock, for which is searched high and low – a list, once it vanishes, it is as though he has never existed at all.

I wonder how many of you looked at the title of this little piece, and if you did look at it, did you ask, “how curious it is that he has spelled ‘sole’ this way?”  Or did you not notice it or did it confuse you or did you run to a dictionary to look it up.  And having looking it up – if indeed you did – did you then wonder what I really had meant to say?  For a soul that is tortured is rarely found on a shoe or in the sea.  But there is always the chance or mere happenstance that it may be found in some spelling bee.

And I wonder how many, if any, gave any thought to the play that was not?  It’s all very well to think of Three Sisters, but that was only a blind.  For although they were souls, they were not the soles I had in mind.

So let us now return to the play that was so brutally discarded by the artistic director of the Moscow Arts Theatre on that old winter morn.  He had thought he had read on the frontispiece ‘The Three Sisters’, the Chekov play that made him shudder and jerk.  But he had left his eyeglasses at home, along with his toothbrush and a comb, and his eyes they were not so good.  So what he discarded was not what he thought, but rather a masterpiece of Alfredo de Flister.  And it was not four hours long, nor even twenty-two, for it lasted thirty-two minutes, if that. It was a splendid wee saga of some soles that were gaga, and ‘twas always served up with a pitcher of stout and the sort of music that makes you stand up and shout.

So what was this wee saga of Alfredo de Flister and why did the director throw it out?  Quite simple, that is every if you’ve read each word that I’ve writ.  For whatever he had thought he had seen, it hadn’t been de Flister’s wee play, for it was not about sisters, but of soles and shoes, and about the seven soulful blisters of Minsk. But alas and alack it is gone.

While the play may be lost, and all the wisdom therein, I can relate to you now a titbit or two, but not more than a few, for the director he threw out the rest.

There once were three little blisters plus four more besides.  Their names were Soul Blister, Saul Blister, Hay Nonny No Blister, El Solo Mio Blister, Dover A. Sole Blister, Soledad Blister, and Ruth.  And they all lived under the sea, just round the corner from a shoe shop owned by Solomon Mac Solstice Solo-Terree.

Now I said up above the play it was short, so short you have just read it all. For a sole, sad to say, does very little each day, except change its posture at will.  One day it stands straight up and down like a rod, and the next it lies perfectly flat.  And when the sole finally flattens all out, it looks like a road-kill with gills. For its eyes are both atop his top side, one higher up than its mate. And if you look at its mouth, it is really a sight, and not at all pretty to see. But lest you go fainting, it is just like painting.  From Pablo, and not from a witch from Diablo.  And at the moment it is all flat, that is the sign for the old cobbler to pick up his tools. He then fits those old soles to the shoes he has made, for that is his work, my friends.

There were three sole blisters, plus four more besides, making eight minus one in all.  And when the cobbler had finished and had used them all up, he said it was time to go home and sup, and so he closed up his shop and said, “Good-Bye.”

And that, my friends, is the end of the play, there is nothing more you can read.  So why don’t you go out and buy a new book or stay at home and learn how to cook, or staple your nose to your flies.  I don’t give a damn, but please feed me no spam, nor ask me no questions today.  I have said all I’ll say ‘til the next new born day… and that, as they say, is that.


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