Poetry for Strangers: Strangers

A bunch of strangers were gathered in a limestone amphitheater. They couldn’t get out. St. Augustine was there but no one recognized him without his halo; he bummed a cigarette from Camus—don’t tell God, he chuckled—and kept making mordant jokes like Jesus was a smoker when we he was burned into that piece of toast in Monrovia. A well-appointed fellow—tux spats ascot—strolled up and informed them they were there for a game show that they’d never heard of.
There’s not much of a plot or a through line, the emcee admitted. It won’t even be televised, he coughed into his hat. Well, what’re the rules, asked a lady who wanted to win. You’ll figure it out, the emcee said with an airy wave of his hand and sauntered off. The lady cursed him unapologetically.
On a table was a stack of index cards with seemingly random words—turnip gondolier tzatziki ragnok propeller—with some hot pink dice. John Wilkins said he could break the code and began tumbling the dice over and over again, writing down numerological ephemera.
Camus muttered, this could take a while, and turned around to find the Everlasting Cods standing there, blinkered, taking in their surroundings, with their instruments in their 60’s psychedelic regalia. Are we late, glummed the drummer. Late for what, the bassist asked, standing and doing nothing? Never too late for that. I think we’re in New Hampshire, said the singer pompously, pointing to the granite stones that made up the amphitheater. If this is New Hampshire, what does Old Hampshire look like, the lead guitarist asked.
How about a song, St. Augustine asked. So the boys ran through some ditties. Toes were tapping and heads bobbing. By the time they got to their biggest hit, Marmalade—another one of their many songs about fish—the whole group was singing along: Stinky stinky stinky fish heads, it went.
Some laughs were had but after the music died down, teeth gritted. It was the plumber who finally figured out that they were meant to found a municipality. The architect had a lot of fancy ideas but the plumber, who had already been elected mayor of the fledgling township, just wanted a simple town square. At her direction, they began rearranging the stones. Nothing grandiose. Just a functional public—
The emcee had sidled up unnoticed with an eerily-broad smile and said congratulations you’ve won. You can all go home now. Almost disappointed, they stopped rolling the stones and left them standing there like undone monuments and they filed out shuffling back to their separate lives.
It wasn’t time wasted, one of the Cods said as they drifted off, Me and Augie wrote a humdinger melody, we’re calling it Holy Mackerel until we think of something better.
The plumber returned to her beloved van. When she ate lunch that day she stroked the head of her monkey wrench absentmindedly. And thought of the game. Well, she thought, I may never be mayor but I could run for the head of the Plumbers’ Union Local #42 that’s opening up next month. Why not me, she thought.

For more, visit Poetry for Strangers: Strangers


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