Sleepingfish infinite
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Process News 1

from PANTS IN THE TREE by Stephen Lloyd Webber

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A genius happened one day upon his own pants in a tree.

How could this possibility assert itself?

To discern whether the pants in question were in fact his, the genius looked no further than his own lap to see if he could detect an absence.

But then, he was standing—he had no lap, and no pants to cover with, lap or no lap.

Two problems, and which to solve first?

The truest problems dealt with ideas rather than materials. First, to handle his missing lap. Where is the yonder it goes to when I stand?

A lap existed as part of a perfect balance. Oneís lap, when one stood, was given to someone else who sat down.

The exchange only balanced when there was an even number of laps. What if the whole world of people grew tired?

But then there was the rotation of planets, half the planet in daylight and half in darkness. There were astronauts and insomniacs and people at night having intercourse in graveyards.

Perhaps it was not easier to deal with ideas than with concrete things.

The genius, who was wise, stood, arm supporting some of his weight, leaning on a white and vacant lawn chair, lapless, pants-less, for some length of time, perhaps the duration of transition from sun-up to morning, and evaluated the swaying of wind through the sock of his pantlegs.

For a solution, the genius proposed to use a stick to get the pants down from the tree. Anything with a majority of length as opposed to width or height would suffice. He would hold the stick and use it against the tree. One would want the stick to be smooth rather than pointed, and not slick or sluglike in any way. With any equation of space there was also the concern of duration. He would prefer the stick to be convenient and rather quick, if at all possible, against this dragon.

No sooner had he arrived at this decision than his eyes lit upon the long, hollow aluminum pole used to clean his pool. He hefted the pole and found it to be remarkably lightweight. Another satisfying calculation.

At the poleís extreme end was a net. Supposing a net was more practical for retrieving or cleaning than was, say, an electromagnet or soup spoon, he nodded at having recognized the net, imagining that he, in turn, was being regarded by it as more original than those who would only use such a thing to clean the pool.

Yet, examining the tree, the hot sun beating down hard on his underwear-only crotch, the genius concluded that the net was too large to fit among its branches, and if it got tangled it would no longer prove useful for the pool, so he turned the pole around, pointing the handle at the sky, wedging the net under his armpit, cradling its empty fringe, and with his other hand holding the pole like the neck of a very long sitar whose strings had been woven into a grid.

Using the pole to fish the tree for his pants, the genius snagged upon a moment of reflective insight, thinking of his deceased friend, his former neighbor, brother to his late wife. Stuck on this memory, he felt he was at the bottom of a deep, warm well, sitting in his wifeís white lawn chair underwater, breathing, in the center of the well, looking overhead at the sunlight.

He paused his search for the pants for long enough to feel through the question of whether he was actually standing at the bottom of a well or whether he was standing before a tree with pants in it.

His shoulder began to ache.

Here I stand, fishing at my leggings, he muttered. Suppose I were to walk into the sky and fetch them. But, gravity, dear friend, you are too quick for me, and I would fall, if ever I seized more than a step from you.

He stared into the tree with moderate intensity, feeling at home in his aged, yet lissome body. When his shoulder felt strong again, he resumed jabbing high in the tree at the pants with the aluminum pole. As he moved the pole in disinterested circular jabs, at a distance it looked as if the sky was stirring some biscotti at the bottom of a coffee cup.

Within a dozen more tries, the man retrieved his pants. The winning technique involved not spearing, waving, or striking, but instead a careful cradling from underneath the pants, which, once loosed, were able to drop harmlessly, as fruit to the earth from the springy branch of a tree.

Some pants, he muttered.

He didnít know how long he had been without pants, or where they had been in the interim. Surely they had been somewhere besides his lap and the tree. They had to get from point A to point B. Perhaps the pants soiled themselves in the process?

He wondered whether he should wash the pants, or whether the sun and air could be considered to have cleaned them. Certainly the pole-work, coupled with the ambient humidity, known to be higher close to vegetation, must have given the fabric a bit of laundering?

The genius stood for some time next to the foreign object and pondered. Wearing pants, one simply refers to a man, not a man with pants. Now I am a man plus pants. A man, pantsless, standing next to a pair of pants I once wore.

Would they still fit?

As he pondered, the genius saw a pelican waddle by. He wondered at first if that pelican contained fish. And if in fact the fish the bird had consumed could truly be said to belong to the pelican, and if so, at what point; perhaps the fish rightfully belonged to the circumstances that led to them being caught and eaten.

Standing there next to his pants, the genius placed his mindís eye at the utmost extreme where the cells of fish, through digestion, became the cells of the pelican, where the consumed eye of the fish, once reflective of lifeís fire, then became glassy and metallic, then dissolved beyond recognition, yet the eye was still there, though the eye was not his, or, at least, he could not yet know for certain...

The fish-containing bird stood on a red croquet ball, facing the wind, wings partially outstretched. The genius sighed as he sat down in his wifeís white chair to study the pelicanís sense of self and the blue sky underneath its wings.

Watching the bird close its eyes and perhaps nap, the genius decided to put on his pants. It was only efficient, he thought. They were so near and his need so obvious.


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Process News

Stephen Lloyd Webber lives off-grid in a many-windowed earth-sheltered house in Northern California. The property was purchased with the generous donations of friends and family and follows the model of a gift economy. It is strictly small scale, an invitation-only retreat center for writers, artists and yoga practitioners to practice and collaborate and contribute.

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