Sandcastle Story

Someone told a story, an elegant epic that struck the hearts of humankind and brought forth an undeniable revelation. The story was discovered and then related with such exactitude that its reproduction was inevitable. This is not that story. If it was, you would have read a long foreword by now, penned by some vague professor of literature. Stories of magnificent caliber often undergo less than magnificent critique. People like to play with the dead, for after a great story ends and dies, there are hands and eyes and thoughts all over it; a parade of worshippers who, secretly distraught at the cessation of their god, practice a kind of prolonged ritual of resurrection, hoping that in the sacred dirges of their appraisals the god will reappear like an echo, alive in heart and alive in soul.

No, this story is not so inspired, for it has crawled out of a lack-wit’s cavernous mind, a crippled creature hardly worth life, let alone critique. A great story soars down from above, alights like a dove and pierces with cries the air like an eagle. This story has come from the other direction, from below you, and so like a worm it is here on this page, a wriggling tube of letters and meaning and mud. But birds eat worms.

There is a main character, and we will just call him Protagonist, because his name is so unremarkable and becomes a nuisance rather than a joy to pass the eyes over. His nemesis, likewise, we shall call Antagonist. They are fighting with each other, these two, and the battle is long, arduous, and full of surprises. There are several secondary characters, of whom we will group into the Cast, and they for the most part support the Protagonist. Some of them sacrifice themselves, others are weaker and flee. There are hundreds of bit characters, drop pieces, and then millions of non-existent, assumed-to-be-there characters, one of whom is Samuel.

Samuel you never meet, he is not in this story. Or he wasn’t. As a writer I have taken the liberty to place an invisible camera over him, so that we may watch his every move. He doesn’t know it’s there. The Protagonist and Antagonist are ever aware of the cameras around them, and so they are constantly acting, sticking to the rigorous demands of a limpid plot and one dimensional, straight-jacket archetypes. Consequently they are never themselves, for cameras create self-consciousness, and performance is life. Samuel, however, is completely real and acts as he pleases. He is never, and shall never (as far as he knows) be in front of a camera. In fact he avoids them. Right now he is in the kitchen, washing dishes.

I know what you are thinking. You expect me to take this mundane being and turn him into something bigger. To exonerate his lack, to justify his normality, which can be seen as the sub-super, an ugly and unbearable gene that a story ought never to examine. No, our observations of Samuel will not glorify, and they will not trump up. They will not reveal that wonder in the worn-out, or the excitement secretly stowed beneath the boredom. That is what you want me to do – through story to provide the proof of intrinsic self-worth, even in the poorest, most unnoticeable of us all. But I will not sing to your soul. You are unsatisfied. Go find living water.

Samuel washes dishes. He is thinking about the girlfriend he does not have: the shape of her neck, how her voice sounds over the phone, what her eyes long to look at most. He is sad, because it is cold outside, and spring is very far away. His hands are getting wrinkly from the dishwater, palms included, for factory-work has left him with permanent gloves of overlapped callus. He has acne on his forehead, but this is not humbling. He is arrogant and knows darkness.

He will go to bed soon, an uncertain and dreamless sleeper. This night he will forget to brush his teeth, and regret it in the morning when the fuzz coats his gums. He will realize he is not the Protagonist, for his gums are lightly burning, and imperfection rests on him like body odor.

We don’t know when Samuel meets his girlfriend, or if he ever does at all. Perhaps he passes her in the mall, but is challenged by a well-crafted window advertisement, and so misses her. Perhaps she delivers his mail. Or maybe she’s even died fifty years ago, she born to early or he too late.

Regardless, nothing ever comes of Samuel. He dies. His body decays. The tremble leaves his eyelids, and the longing escapes his heart.

This is a story. It is over now.

Sandcastle Story

Jonathan Dobson

Joined December 2007

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Artist's Description

Someone told a story, an elegant epic that struck the hearts of humankind and brought forth an undeniable revelation. The story was discovered and then related with such exactitude that its reproduction was inevitable. This is not that story.

Artwork Comments

  • fillette
  • Jonathan Dobson
  • Empress
  • Ushna Sardar
  • Jonathan Dobson
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