The Rime of the Postmodern Mariner

More ramblings of Rhys Hughes.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

PM Question Time #4: with the Opposite of Something

It has been a long time since any Postmodern Mariner conversations were posted here. Eight pirates on the Sea of Tea; eight conversations!

The first can be found here; the second here; and the third here...

The fourth of the conversations is with the pirate of the northwestern zone, Captain Marlow Nothing, and it goes something like this:

PM: Do you regard your surname as enigmatic or merely unimaginative?

CN: Neither; it's purely practical. I had an accident many years ago and suffered amnesia, a severe dose. I forgot my real name. Clearly I could have adopted a pseudonym that didn't draw attention to my condition, but in fact I decided to take pride in the emptiness of my lost identity. When I struggled back to awareness I knew nothing other than how I felt right then. As I knew only my present feelings and also knew nothing, it thus follows that I must be Nothing. And so I am.

PM: Did your amnesia ever wear off?

CN: It did. And I remembered my original name, the name my parents bestowed on me: Marlow Nullity. You are free to consider this coincidence a mere contrivance, but I regard it as a special sign. Alas, I'm not in a position to explain the mechanisms of the sign but I can reveal its content to you now: 0. Yes, zero! The perfect number! Any number divided by zero is infinity; so it's logical to say that any person divided by me also becomes infinity, because I am a form of zero. This is very reassuring for a pirate captain. I cut my enemies into two, three, four or even more pieces and they are instantly transformed by the magic of mathematics into a quantity without end. My cutlass imparts eternal life!

PM: Very good. Are you insane?

CN: No more than many of my author's characters. And I've already lasted longer than most of the others. In printed words I date back to the story 'Percussion Cape', written in 1995; but actually the author conceived of me long ago, in 1982 or 1983, in an abandoned juvenile novel entitled The Jin-Septev. Yes, that title is meaningless but it has been recycled and mutated and I have it on good authority that he intends one day to write a new novel called Djinn Septic in which I'll play a deserved part. But these are technical matters outside my control.

PM: Is it true your author is a pompous fellow?

CN: He is also your author, so you are in an equally good position to answer that question; but I can hazard a guess that no, he's not especially pompous. Certainly he is playful and he often plays with the pomposity of other writers, and sometimes this game may involve feigning pomposity, but the irony will still be there, always. And yet it is not my task to defend him in any capacity whatsoever. Ask a new question!

PM: How many knees are best?

CN: Three pairs. The ones you wear every day; the backup pair on the obverse side that bend the other way; a spare pair. Three pairs for each man and woman, if possible. But it never is.

PM: How true! Favourite colour?

CN: Dark green, the colour of cucumber skins. Before the sunlight inside them is released. An unopened cucumber is a powerful thing. Do you know the King of Shush? He grows the finest cucumbers and pickles them in the classiest jars. We munch them together, he and I, when I go visiting, which isn't very often. One time he was passing me a big jar of very big pickled cucumbers but it slipped out of my grasp and smashed on the flags. The tricolours were sopping! The flag of the Seychelles became unreadable. Anyway, the cucumbers exploded, burst into light. A rogue spark from the impact must have set them off. Sunbeams everywhere, and just for an instant I thought I heard them speak, all together in one voice. "Why doesn't the Buddha get deep-vein thrombosis?" is what they asked. A curious acoustic illusion, no?

PM: I agree: no. Are all your crewmen also mad?

CN: Salty is what they are. And caffeinated from the sea spume. They are also versed in the best seadog sayings, but it is only I who has the right to shout, 'Hard to Starbucks! Hard to Portfolio!' when I want the ship to turn right or left. And I exercise that right, and left, frequently.


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