Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Waiting for Godot or Story, the Stakes Never Vary

Two individuals are seated in a park-like setting, reminiscent of the terrain in which we first see the two principals known to us as the iconic duo who await Godot. The first wears a large duffle coat, one or two sizes larger than a person of his size would wear. We'll soon see the reason why, when he gets up to approach a third person, who is walking through the area.

Our duffle coated individual approaches, flings open the folds of his coat, on which are displayed on the left fold an array of wristwatches, on the right fold an assortment of cell phones. The passerby continues without a moment's pause, much less any hint of interest. Nevertheless, our duffle coated individual is doing something active; he is attempting to do what more upmarket sales personnel in more respectable venues do every working day, which is to say he is offering a choice of items to a potential audience.

Thus is story born, with an individual doing something to effect a result. Note the emphasis on the verb to do; this individual is doing something. We may or may not find out what this individuals working hours are or if, indeed, he has other items for sale, cached for the moment in his pockets. He is the necessary potential of intent and energy required by any narrative with hopes of turning itself into a story.

The other individual wears more nondescript clothing, trousers, shirt, an old-but-serviceable tweed jacket. Like the other individual, he waits, his display a chess board, each piece in its beginning-of-the-game position, the standard colors, white and black. This individual, like his cohort, waits. We are not sure what he awaits, not even when another passerby strolls past him, notices the chess board, nods, walks on.  No story here. For all we know, the individual with the chess board could be playing--make that replaying famous games of past tournaments, not an unlikely thing for a person in a park.

Suppose, however, after two or three other passersby appear, then move on without so much as a nod of recognition. our man moves one of the pawns, say the white queen's pawn, forward two squares. Neither an exciting nor unorthodox opening gambit. 

Ah, you say, a tiny flicker of action, which, however tiny, nevertheless embodies one of the necessities of story. However cerebral chess presents itself, either as a game in general or a more specific metaphor of warlike movement, tactic, and counter tactic, with a specific goal in mind, this particular chess board has been presented with in effect the first stone having been cast.

Our chess player now advances the black king's pawn the two squares he is entitled, then takes a seat nearby, perhaps contemplating what white should do next, but so far as we as observers can see, he is only gazing fixedly at the board.

At length, another person strolls through the park-like setting, whereupon the individual in the duffle coat approaches him, with a flourish exposes the watches and cell phones. The stroller pauses, looks at the watches. "Do you," he says, "have something a bit more upmarket?"

"Ah," the man in the duffle coat says, plunging a beefy hand into a commodious pocket, then withdrawing a small black box, which he opens, then presents to the stroller.

"A Rolex?" the stroller says.

"You'd think so, wouldn't you?" the duffle coat notes. "But I cannot lie to you, sir. Impressions of Rolexes do not always bear out to be Rolexes. I have here in another pocket a fountain pen most persons would swear is a Mountblanc, but if you examine the small letters on the clip, you will find them to say Montalbano."

"How much for the both?" stroller says, "watch and pen?"

There is no longer a question about a story being in progress here, the only question, or perhaps there is more than one, has to do with what kind. So far as the chess player is concerned, let us say a youngish woman, perhaps late twenties, perhaps a tattoo or so on one of her pliant young forearms, stops to regard the chess board.  "You might try bringing the white queen's pawn into play here," she suggests.

"I see you believe in a vigorous opening gambit," the chess player says.

What he does not know, nor do we, and, of course, both of "us" will discover is that the chess player, only yesterday, hustled the young woman's grandfather out of fifty dollars in a mate-in-ten-moves dare, and is about to be humiliated in one of the ways a young person is best equipped to humiliate--should she choose to do so--an older person.

Story is everywhere, even where you least expect it, and most certain of all, when you search for it with the desperation of searching for lost keys, when you can't seem to find it anywhere.

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