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"Prerequisite For Degree-story Of Life" (by Joe DiMino)

I sat back frustrated—
Flipping my pen, in lethal manner, across the table;
Called the dictionary, “A dick!”
Now for you thesaurus—something
Really vulgar (My usual sour-grapes when attempting to write a novel);
“Prerequisite For Degree-story Of Life,” that says it all!—
Still stuck at “ Writer 101” after 10 years in the trade;

Why anyone chooses writing as a career
Beats me?
Oh, I make a lively-hood! But the pen should be
Mightier than the sword!
Where is my one story?
All writers are entitled to at least one
Great one, before kicking the bucket—
Poetic justice, ain’t it? Wouldn’t you say?
Damn poetic justice!
Just one such story
Worthy of selling my soul…well…not
That so drastic a measure maybe;
But obituaries, lost dogs, strange lights in the night sky
For the local rag
Don’t cut it;
I’ll consider dipping my quill in blood
Only for a chance at immortality—
To sparkle—even briefly before the fires—
As a giant in literature—
And here I am,
Giving advise to lonely hearts: “ Mother Jessica” if the readers could see me now:
(I bit the tip off a fresh cigar)

“Is there no sympathy for loyal Wordsmiths?”
I shouted up at the Muse—or in—or down…wherever—
The Muse protesting back in thought:
“But writers need experience to draw from;
A life to begin with….” “Prerequisite For Story Of Life”—all my novel titles
In the same wastebasket—Mat Kelly’s accumulated works
In one stained, round, deep volume—no extra charge for cigar butts
And empty beer cans;

I sat down at my Tinker-table, off to the right of the kitchen;
Fiddled with the old clock;
Flee-market stuff, most of which
Never run, and are far too gone for repair;
But this Ticker was different,
Ancient and yet pristine;
And unbreakable—
I dropped it on the stairs
Before entering the apartment—
Thought the thing demolished,
But low and behold,
After retrieving and inspecting
I discovered not a blemish;

This timepiece truly intrigued me—
Recalling the strange old woman
I acquired it from—
Well, actually, it could have been a young woman—
Though lavishly dressed, fur, diamonds,
A more used, sad, pathetic face I had never seen--
Old for any years;
A brittle face
Seemingly inscribed with experience of the world
Encompassing all of joy, but more of pain and suffering;
“Please, take it! (sounding desperate) It is yours.”(slyly in control)
She had just one item on her table;
The solitary clock—solitary in a most unique sense;
For I had never seen another one remotely like it;
Antique and magnificent, for sure—
Perhaps two feet high
And just as wide;
A medieval cathedral, very Gothic,
With a bar covered portico
Just beneath the zodiac face—
Curious architecture I thought;
I bent down closer to the object,
Peered into the portico, the one that was barred, for a near look:
Deep into the dim interior
I spied several shadowy figures (I nervously laughed…
Thought the dolls had moved in a life-like manner,
Further into the dark, out of my view)—
What a splendid piece;
“Only a penny—I must sell it to you—
Not permitted to give it away,
A mere copper, young man…and you are the proud new owner—
But wind the forth arbor, the only one having a triangular shape, if you are certain there is time;
Just the first three arbors, having square ends, the chimes and the pendulum, are without extra charge.”
What you don’t see, you can’t charge me for, I thought;
Indeed, she sounded mad,
But I wasn’t about
To pass up such good fortune—
So I tossed her the coin,
Then absconded as a thief—

I must quickly move along
With my draft—
Time is running down…

To describe this little beauty:
The gargoyles near the peaks of the cathedral
Seemed ready to take flight;
The entire façade, excepting the forty bleak portals,
Was an elaborate display of stone figures—
Familiar, and some fantastic,
Beyond imagination—
Part human,
Part beast;
Part earthly

And more of the strangely alien;

With the square receptacle key in hand
I wound the first three winds;
Hesitating briefly before the fourth…
Remembering the Hag’s warning:
“Wind only if you have time,”
I laughed, then used the second key, fitting the triangular head, on the remaining arbor;
“There will be an extra charge”
I heard in my mind;
Then swung the pendulum, and to my delight,
She began to tick;
Tick and tick
With perfect sounding syncretism;

After admiring for a long time
The glittering gears
Mesh and release,
I retired to my bedroom,
Shutting the door on my prize
For a quiet sleep;

Ticking entered my sleep—
Louder and louder in my mind
Despite my attempts at fighting
The impulse to awaken—

I sat up in bed,
Never having heard
Such an incessant echo
In all my 40 years;

Amazed I was,
When upon opening my bedroom door
And gazing into what was shortly before a simply furnished, modern parlor,
I found the entire room
Had become the insides of some
Fantastic, futuristic clock—
The gears were huge, Saturn like globes—
Having teethed rings seeming made of gold,
With the most precious, clear, stars of ruby, Sapphires of rich blue,
Mystifying the many glistening hubs;
What was once a non-descriptive ceiling
Was now an expanse of galactic sky,
Dotted with near and distance galaxies,
Comets and meteors traversing
Leaving magnificent streams of glittering dust;
And then I saw the handle…
As if calling to me—
Shadowy figures in murky background—
The horror of ancient, tortured faces warning me away—
Ranting and raving in unison—
A grotesque pantomime
Urging me to distance myself from the lever, engraved with crystal letters
Stating: “Into the future!”

Despite my fear, driven by an urge void of logic,
I leaned on the handle
Propelling it one notch forward—
Only one tiny click
Heard loud above
The incessant clang and release of the escapement.

It was tomorrow, Saturday,
Day of the Kentucky Derby—
The winner was being led to the victory circle;
I could see the number clear,
“7”—and the then the Odd’s Board—40 to 1;

I awoke, back in my bed;

Within two weeks I had accumulated a small fortune—
Every night, before retiring winding that fourth arbor,
To be awakened and find my apartment transformed,
And the fascinating, crystal handle calling to me,
As a Snake lures its Charmer,
Letting the Charmer believe that he is in control,
When the snake, itself, is manipulating for music
To dance—

And I danced, night after night—
Pushing the handle ever more forward;
I advanced 5 years into future vision,
Seeing things yet to happen,
That I knew now would definitely come to pass,
Yet only a month on the calendar had registered;
While I was strikingly older in appearance,
Shocked to find startlingly grayer temples—
This was the extra charge of which the Old Hag had spoken;

As if addicted to opium, I was back—
Night after night, moving the handle ever forward;
I saw worlds come and go,
Inventions of magnificent proportion;
Mysteries of experience beyond my comprehension to even describe,
Though I wish I could share with you the joy of
Such, indefinable splendor;
But now, my hands are so arthritic, I can barely turn the arbor—
And I fear that if I once more leaned on the crystal level,
I would be forever trapped in the clock as are all the other shadows,
Poor devils who ran out of time—

I must answer the door:

“Mr. Kelly, I am here in response to your ad,”
The very young and attractive woman spoke
With a gleam of bright anticipation in her eyes,
And a modest measure of greed.
“About this unusual clock you have for sale—
Was this a misprint, or indeed, Sir,
You are only asking a penny for the item?”
She fluttered her long eyelashes.

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