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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

July 13 3minute fiction

Within days, the engagement was off. But who knows? The future is a
rock. It's dense and almost impenetrable. But we're put here with
tools, and we bash away at it. We get through it. And then, in the
midst of a bunch of dirt, a jewel will be uncovered. That's the way it
works.

We don't have a word for the work that happens at the coalface, the
present. Right now there's some entity working to parse vast amounts
of "hasn't happened yet" into piles of "just did" and "never will".
It's a huge job, and yet it happens effortlessly, constantly and
fluidly. There's never a hitch, never a hold-up. It doesn't tick. It
flows.

There is a word in !Kx'a, a language of the Khoisan, that resembles
the English word for procrastination, but with an important
difference. In English, there's almost no way to frame procrastinating
in a positive light. But often times in life, if we’re just patient
and calm, the work we thought we'd need to do resolves itself. This is
the meaning captured in the Kx'a language. Unfortunately it's totally
unpronounceable to English speakers, comprising an elaborate and
subtle combination of clicks and tongue rolls.

The Khoisan have a fable about this word which is beautifully told in
!Kx’a. It’s about two cheetah brothers. One is very calm and patient.
The other is very active and curious. It had been several days between
feeds and the active one keeps going out hunting, but coming back
having not caught anything. Angry with his brother, he calls him lazy
for not going out hunting. But the calm cheetah explains to his
brother that sometimes no amount of work will fill your stomach. The
only thing to do is to wait for the time to be right. At this point
the busy brother hears a sound in the grass, and immediately goes
hunting for the animal making the sound. But that animal is cobra. It
bites the cheetah and he dies. At that very moment, a baby impala
springs through the long grass, stumbles and breaks its leg, landing
within breath of the resting brother cheetah. In !Kx’a the name of the
calm brother cheetah is this special word.

Anthony made his way uptown to the 151st St. jeweller he'd bought the
ring from. He was buzzed in through several layers of security doors,
and landed in a seat opposite an elderly Jewish man.

"I'd like to return this, if I could." He placed the ring on a tray on
the table between them.
The jeweller picked it up and gave it a good looking over with his loop.
"What happened?"
"She called it off."
"What will you do?"
"I don't know."
"Would you like to know? Are you looking for something?"
"Well, I hadn't really, thought...ya, I guess. You mean like a job?"
"You seem like an honest boy. I'd like to keep you busy, keep you out
of trouble. I need someone to courier some diamonds from the
Democratic Republic. You'd travel business class, all expenses paid.
You go, you get the product and you bring it back. Do you have a valid
passport?"
"Ya, ya, I got a passport. We got them because we were planning to go
to Italy for our honeymoon."
"Of course we'll also pay you. There's a standard fee. It's generous.
More than this ring is worth. So?”
"Sure. When do I go?"
"Tomorrow, if we can get the paperwork in place."
"And Democratic Republic? What's that? Where's that?"
"Congo".

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