CuiousPages - fiction and nonfiction
CuriousPages - fiction and nonfiction
“No, that’s what you want to know. That’s not what the problem is.”
“So, what’s the problem then?”
“It’s not really possible for me to tell you that.”
“Why not? Are you not allowed to?”
“No, I’m not able to. It just isn’t possible.”
“But isn’t that your job?”
Melancholy told her, “No. If we take our metaphorical Japanese-speaking cat, for example. Suppose you wanted to get to a particular street in Tokyo and you stopped to ask the cat directions. If the cat started speaking Japanese to you, and even gesticulated with its paws, could you understand its directions?”
Lorna thought for a moment and then said, “I think I would have a rough idea, because I would see the direction it was pointing in.”
“But what if it was saying ‘Don’t, whatever you do, go in that direction because it is the wrong direction’?”
“Well, then I’d get completely lost.”
Agent Melancholy said, “Exactly! So, imagine that you were travelling along a road and you came to a fork in the road and didn’t know which way to go, and then you noticed me sitting beside the road. You approached me to ask me directions (just as you have done today), but at that moment, I transformed into a cat who was very learned but could only speak Japanese. You asked me for directions. I might well have been able to then recite two hours of finely honed Japanese verse to you. But you would still be lost, because you could not understand a word of Japanese. Do you see?”
Lorna said, in her own simple way, “Well, couldn’t you just tell me in English?”
“But perhaps the cat cannot speak English. It can only speak Japanese.”
Lorna said, now a little impatiently, “But I’m not interested in the cat. I just want to know if Felipe feels anything for me.”
Melancholy said, “I see.” He crossed his arms and held his chin with his right hand for a moment. He watched Lorna whilst seeming to perform some sort of calculation in his head. He then agreed to take on her case. He put on his nondescript overcoat and accompanied her back to her workplace. On the way, he told her, “Just imagine I am not here. I will follow you for a few days and gather the clues. I might whisper my observations into your ear from time to time, but I will speak so softly that no-one else will hear.”
Lorna had no objections. She just wanted the riddle to be solved—did Felipe have any feelings for her, or not?
Lorna worked in an open-plan office. She sat at her desk and Melancholy sat beside her. She whispered, “That’s Felipe, over there.”
Felipe Perez’s desk was on the other side of the office, about twenty yards to the left of her desk. Their desks faced in the same direction and Felipe’s was a few yards ahead of hers, so that if he glanced over his right shoulder, they could see each other. Felipe’s father was Spanish and his mother Chinese and Felipe seemed to have inherited all the best traits from both his parents, in both looks and personality. He had long black hair, a dark Mediterranean complexion and dark, alluring eyes. There was a mystique that seemed to surround him; he would have to do nothing more than merely enter a room to cause every eye in the room to turn towards him, like compass needles seeking north.
While she was walking back to the office, she gave Agent Melancholy the details of her brief relationship with Felipe. They started dating a few weeks before. They met a few times at the coffee machine during their breaks, started chatting, then sending each other messages on the internal mail system, then they arranged a date. In the following two weeks, they had sex twice at Lorna’s flat, but then she noticed he did not seem to be saying the right things to her, nor messaging her any more at the office, then it occurred to her he had never even told her he was attracted to her.
He smoothed his hair into place, replaced his hat, then pricked up his ears—in the manner of an alert hunting dog—at the muffled talk coming from the front door. He realized he had a moment to himself, so he quickly sat on the front edge of the sofa—beside the place where Sally’s hips had been—and caressed the cushion for as long as he dared. He sighed, looked under the cushion, then replaced it and tapped it several times while reflecting that there did not seem to be anything criminal‑looking there (—No, no, it all seems perfectly legal to me). He nodded his approval at the law‑abiding cushion, then sat back down in the easy chair he occupied before mounting Sally.
Sally returned with a woman and two men (one of whom—Roland noticed—was limping). She introduced them as The Perception Residents’ Committee. Sally sat in the other easy chair and the committee sat along the sofa, further introducing themselves as Primrose Jones, Thomas Smithe, and Francis Meeke.
The woman clutched a thick wad of paper in (what could only be described as) a vindictive fashion. She eyed Roland while waving this wad of paper to and fro on her lap as if it were a hatchet she were contemplating using on him. Her knuckles whitened and her weapon seemed to start fidgeting as if it had a mind of its own and were desperately trying to get at Roland. She then lost control of it and started waving it at Roland, saying, “What do you think you’re doing—sitting around here when there’s a murderer still loose out there; or haven’t you noticed? No, I don’t suppose you would have. All you can do is sit around here contemplating ‘novel’ uses for your truncheon. Oh yes, I know all about that. Just what do you think you’re doing?—what? come on, what?”
Roland opened his mouth to speak but Primrose pressed on, “Five weeks, you’ve had; five weeks, and all you’ve got is a woman—a middle‑aged, blonde woman. A woman; you’re looking for a woman. Simpletons, that’s what you are. What have you been doing all this time? Come on, what? what?”
Roland opened his mouth to answer but she cut him off again, “Incompetence; that’s what it is. We’ve got a petition—a petition—” waving her weapon at him even more vigorously, “Everybody thinks the same—incompetent; you’re all incompetent.”
Roland rose in his seat, puffed up his plumage and shouted back at her, “Oh, of course—you can do better—with no training at all. All the rigorous training we’ve had (fifty‑seven novels; fifty‑seven!), and we can’t do a thing—oh no. But here’s you—Miss Volcano‑gob—and you can do it all.”

Links

Some links to other sites of literary interest.

Project Gutenberg. The first internet archive of free electronic books. There are now over 25,000 books available free at this site.

eBooks@Adelaide. The University of Adelaide Library’s collection of Web books. The collection includes classic works of Literature, Philosophy, Science, and History.

ReadPrint. Online books, free to read. From all the classic authors, though with some authors, only the most well known of their books are yet added. The books are nicely laid out easy to read.

Complete Works of William Shakespeare. The Web's first edition of the complete works of William Shakespeare. The texts are clearly and simply laid out, making them a joy to read. Navigation within each play is also straightforward.

The Literature Network is a vast store of online texts: books, short stories, poems. The full texts are included but the more popular works are peppered with advertising. If you don't mind that, happy reading.

Gaslight is an archive of classic short stories which were originally published as an internet discussion list. Genres include: mystery, adventure and The Weird.

East of the web. A growing collection of classic and newly-written short stories made available on the Web. Stories are organized by theme: fiction, romance, crime, sci-fi & fantasy, humour, horror, hyperfiction, children's, and nonfiction. Includes works by many famous authors.

George Boeree. This site contains many fascinating nonfiction etexts introducing every aspect of psychology. George's writing is clear and straightforward.

The Internet Classics Archive. An archive of works of classical literature in English translations. The works are mostly Greek and Roman, with some Chinese and Persian works.

Online Magazines

TheAtlantic.com. Current affairs magazine with short stories, essays and poetry. See the archive of short stories.

Narrative Magazine. Fiction, poetry, short short stories, nonfiction, features. Good quality writing. You can subscribe to the site free of charge, which will allow you to read the full text of the stories.

The Oldie. This magazine was created by a previous editor of Private Eye, as: an antidote to youth culture but, more importantly, a magazine with emphasis on good writing, humour and quality illustration.

Zoetrope All-Story. A short story magazine. You can read samples from many of the stories online, but will need to purchase a subscription to read the full text.

3:AM Magazine. Containing fiction, nonfiction, interviews, poetry, opinions.

Resources

How to Write a Story is a blog consisting of articles on how to write.

Refdesk.com. Today's news stories from around the world. And other similar reference material.