Friday, July 15, 1994

AMBVRA: Absent-Minded Beggars Voluntary Relief Association

by Professor John Woodall


First, a brite mission is identified.
Strategic oblivion. (pro forma)

A paper corpse is drawn up and colored in red by local children. The first introductory page is labeled rust. The second page, madder. The third, vermilion, and so on. No one strays outside the lines.

Heart Screws are loosened.

Afterwards, mouth wrestling is initiated as a popular sport of chance. Plain beggars officiate. Their decisions are acknowledged as gossip without plot. Later everyone throws anything at nearby walls just to see what sticks. When nothing does a new proposal is drawn up: any future attempt to prolong life beyond its individual expression will be viewed unreliable. Still, wall chucking continues by force of habit until it becomes a thoughtless custom.

Only the bakers continue, then, as if nothing threatens them. Black and white bread for the town, sugared rolls for the children.


PERIODIC NUMERICAL PREOCCUPATIONS: A hygienic therapy for the occasional social blemish: Without a day to spare for life.

SYMPTOMS: Some acts of charity. Words that fail. Displays of gratitude. Precious few pricks of conscience.

ON FIRST ENCOUNTER: (1.) An enlisted criminal delivers prompt relief if there is no other hand to hold on to. (2.) Suspicion is shaped by the weight of its accumulated numbers. Later, solace can be discharged by agitated remedies.

TO BEGIN: Tickle the throat with a straw or feather. Take care not to irritate the patient. This should loosen the tongue. Begin tongue traction therapy by pulling the affected member forward and clear of the mouth. Rub it vigorously with movements directed toward the heart. Release and repeat as before. When relaxed the tongue can be secured to the lower jaw. A clean handkerchief looped around the tongue, passed under the chin and tied back of the neck should do. If this fails, push a sterilized pin through the tongue so that it will rest against the teeth and prevent retraction.

CAUTION: A temporary relief from prickly conscience won’t discourage inarticulate displays of gratitude.

HOWEVER: Numbers freed of extraneous meaning can be inserted as a new impulse for popular opinions of charity. This will encourage fresh samples of international sympathy. Zeros in any event are another story.

FOR INSTANCE: Two consecutive numbers are mentally added together (36+37). Their sum (73) is then combined with the next consecutive number (38) giving a new sum (111). Add this to a fourth and so on….

Summing the sum. First aid to the recovery.


The colors of a dying face coalesce; merging white to gray, yellow to red to brown to green, to purple to black to gray from white. A dumb perfection of the wheel, jaundiced and earless, like a deaf drummer in a mute clinic, which in itself might be closer to a riot in a parrot house.

Carrouseled colors in flight. Dying by muted numbers. Scapaflow. Further examples can be drawn from more of the same.

A duck party of muckers seeking the cure arrives singing (by the numbers): Loon, loon fly away - if we’re going into scrap the wardrobe must play. Quickly they are identified as ostriches to avoid trouble. Human ballast on the Q.T.

When a third letter of rejection is sent under false name by the condolence committee down at Bedlam, the wardrobe is tucked away for tuning and Bedlam converted to a war museum in nocturnal suspension over a bedtime crater. To be sure is not to be had.

Mounted high on a suet wall hangs a retrieval box stuffed with salvage. When opportunity knocks, hope and death feather down in union, neutered cronies hovering enormous and majestic like a monument to themselves.

A mucker pays out a dollar and receives ten in return. A good bit of face saving business. Capitalism always delivers the goods.


When assurance slips over the hills, the safety of a knotted net falls into bankruptcy. Pursuit is out of the question.

Here, in panic, forgets its place. Time raises a despondent question, which everyone ignores, and wanders away to sulk. This world, they say, is no longer this world when expectancy challenges a thousand believers. Cheshire on the half-shell. The beloved order of chatter; jaw gassing, jay bird, gum pumping, clink.

If properly provoked, a smile will stretch forever unless habitual boredom sets in, hysterical expressions of concern consumed by pleasant tomatoism. Euphoria wraps up the chase shining the monkey. Maggot on the brain.

Mothers sew belts of silk for their sonswhen luck hides over the hill. Belts of pleasure. Contemplative belts, tied with opportunistic, wish granting dreams. Belts of a thousand knots.

But the question remains: How are we to get Peter out of Paul when they’re not even on good speaking terms? When all that we might really want is just one good dry grin, because you can’t measure that like you can a smile.

When assurance slips over the hill the value of a good smile is increased by a thousand knots.

So, it is often believed, luck will have it.