Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Stand-Up Man - Flash Fiction

Jiddi had the audacity to question the teacher.

"Go and stand in the corner, insolent pup. You may sit down when you have learned obedience."

Jiddi stood until the bell rang and then walked home. He consumed his meal  in an upright position as well.

His mother shrugged and served him. Strange boy. His father regarded him in silence, then resumed his study of the financials.

Sleeping posed a problem until he braced himself in a corner with his desk.

Relieving himself was as simple as crouching a bit. It taught him balance.

The next day he rode his bike to school standing on the pedals. Mr. Tarlton frowned when Jiddi resumed his stance in the corner.

"Take a seat, young man."

Jiddi maintained his silent pose.

The instructor's face became an alarming shade of red.

"Idiot! You are stubborn as a donkey. Here, wear these then." He formed and placed two cardboard ears upon either side of Jiddi's head.

Classmates tittered and threw wads of saliva-soaked paper at him when Mr. Tarlton's back was turned. When they went outside for lunch, several threw rocks at him as he stood under a tree and ate his lunch. One projectile struck his forehead and a salty trickle of blood ran over his lips. This incited a few but caused others to draw back and keep their distance.

"He's not right," they murmured.

A few began to regard him with something akin to awe.

When Jiddi went home his father beat him with a stick.

"Shame! You did not sleep in your bed last night. No doubt you were doing disreputable things."

People judge you by your stick. His father's was very small.

In the night both his father and his mother crept into his room to make sure that he was not out in the village gamboling and corrupting. Instead he was rocking to and fro, looking out of the window. The world is a busy place at night, for man and beast. Life does not stop for darkness. Jiddi learned a great deal about the world at night.

Jiddi found that the pain in his legs was a living thing, which traveled and slept and called him to attention when his mind drifted. His grades improved remarkably. The other students were drawn to him by curiosity, and soon acquired a vested interest in seeing him continue what they believed to be a power struggle. Outside, one massaged his legs, another brought him sweet things from his own lunch tin. They admired him for being able to do what they could never do.

That was a lie which they told themselves.

When Jiddi graduated from school he tried several jobs, but most required him to sit for one reason or another. In his younger days, when he sat, he never thought about sitting. Now that he did not sit, it became the main topic of conversation for everyone around him who did sit. He stood under a tree in the town square, with a swing to rest his arms or one leg as he slept (for standing includes one leg as well as two) and people brought him things, they took his picture, they asked him questions, they filmed him so that others could sate their curiosity about him while sitting in their living rooms, their kitchens, in front of computers, with their noses in books, while riding the black belching buses. Tourists and villagers alike left money for him. He accumulated wealth by standing all of the time.

Waitresses were paid a pittance for standing much of the time.

People still threw things, but he had learned in the schoolyard that if he did not move they soon gave up and went away.

Monkeys throw poo to get a reaction. It has been deemed a sign of higher intelligence by the scientific community.

Jiddi saw the irony in this.

Eventually someone assigned Jiddi the title of Khareshwari or "Standing Baba".  Many debated his sanity. Some called him a freak or a fraud. A few sat at his feet waiting for words of wisdom.

They did not see the irony.

Jiddi's father managed his new-found riches for him. Such an important job required that he purchase a Bentley and build himself a walled compound to keep out bad men. He could now afford a bigger stick.

He did not see the irony.

When Mr. Tarlton the school master lay upon his sick bed, he called for Jiddi and asked for a laying on of hands. Jiddi did so, and the next day Mr. Tarlton rose up and began to walk.

Faith is not only what we believe, but we do with that belief.

One night a gang of marauders came to the village to loot and to kill. They saw the shape of a man standing under a tree and shot him. He remained standing. They fired until their barrels were hot and a great hue and cry had gone up in the village. Marveling at the man who was impervious to their projectiles, they ran in blind panic into the night.

Jiddi was buried with full honors the next day, lying down while volleys of gunfire cascaded into the sky. Errant fireworks inadvertently burned down a rich man's compound. It burned everything, down to the last stick.

It is possible that Jiddi, from wherever he had gone, saw the irony in all of this.

The day after that, Mr. Tarlton took up his new position, standing under the tree.
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21 comments:

  1. Love it! When we don't understand something then we shun it and if that doesn't work we worship it. ^_^

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    1. As it has been through history...

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  2. What a great story, Li. Stubbornness turned into a way of life, a philosophy for others (or so they think). Very different voice from your Dust Bowl work, and just as effective.

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    1. Thank you Stu. Sometimes stubbornness can be a boon rather than a handicap.

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  3. Very unique! I wonder if his teacher ever saw the irony in it?

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  4. Creative and unique. We revere or fear what we don't understand - rather than try to understand our differences. Well done.

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  5. I'm amazed at how much you worked into such a short space. Excellent story Li!

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  6. The parade of ironies worked out very well in the end. I was always waiting for a traditional twist, like the "pup" line meaning he was actually a dog or dog-man and standing was unusual. Instead it's more of a New Weird piece with the traditional critical edge. Very nice work, Lisa.

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    1. I try not to rely on the "surprise twist" too much. I ran across a mention of the standing babas a while ago - I just couldn't see how to use it till now. I went after the simple approach - I wanted it to feel like a story that might have been told in the village and passed down in the traditional manner.

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  7. Very interesting parable! I wasn't sure if he was standing from stubbornness or if he truly could not sit down (or believed he couldn't) -- which worked in the story's favor. Very good work!

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    1. He began out of stubbornness, then found that he was actually learning many things about himself - and the world. A different sort of path to enlightenment.

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  8. An interesting take on irony. I liked it.

    ......dhole

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  9. Fascinating! I loved your voice in this story, Li, and really enjoyed Jiddi and the way in which people reacted to him. Excellent flash!

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    1. Thank you Richard! it was yet another experimental piece for me. I'll admit I was afraid no one would like it.

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  10. monkeys throw poop to get a reaction and we deem it higher intelligence...ha...there are a couple good zingers in this...size of the stick...ha....

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  11. Great story and characters in just a handful of words. Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

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  12. I love the humor in this. Nice work.

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