Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall. The wall was where Humpty Dumpty had decided to sit. Humpty Dumpty could be found on the wall, sitting. Sitting was the activity Humpty Dumpty was engaging in and the wall was the place he had chosen to sit. Everyone agreed that the wall was where Humpty Dumpty was sitting. It was of no avail to wistfully pretend that Humpty Dumpty was seated elsewhere. With an air of resignation all and sundry were forced to agree that the wall, despite how much they might desperately wish for it to be otherwise, was indeed where Humpty Dumpty sat.
The wall had first been constructed eighty-seven years earlier by two laborers named Stanislaw and Ernst. Throughout his workday Stanislaw often reflected on how he might think of Ernst as the most beautiful man in the world, if not for the fact that, if the truth be known, he considered Ernst to be the most physically repugnant man he had ever seen. Or smelled, for that matter. Still, though, Stanislaw couldn’t help but wonder and it made his pulse quicken each and every time.
Stanislaw wondered what it would be like to be a voluptuously beautiful young blonde woman – or, in his more kittenish moods a redhead – and to have Ernst take him and smother him with kisses, and all the while he would helplessly struggle to free himself from both of Ernst’s tanned, muscular arms. But then he would remember that that dream was impossible – Ernst only had one arm. Everyone agreed that this was so. Ernst was a man who had lost one arm and therefore had only one arm left. If one were to describe a man with two arms there was no denying the fact that it could not be Ernst whom they were thus describing. After all, as everyone from both far and near knew … Ernst had only one arm. And it was beautiful.
Or perhaps “emaciated” might be a better word for the one lone arm that this one-armed man wore with such uni-limbed grandeur. After all, Ernst rarely did any of the heavy labor, leaving that for Stanislaw to do. With the lack of sufficient exercise, along with Ernst’s stringently-enforced diet of water and chestnuts his one remaining arm was slender and withered and could not ever be considered muscular. Instead it hung down limply from Ernst’s arm-socket, like a long-lost lover despairing at the thought that its mate would never return.
For his part Ernst was growing wearier by the day at having to repeatedly tell Stanislaw to stop looking at him with that weird expression on his face and get back to work. Ernst knew in his heart of hearts that the wall he and Stanislaw were working on would have been completed months earlier if not for the way so much time was wasted between his own frequent naps and Stanislaw’s mooning over him.
Not for the first time Ernst reproached himself for the way he had let his life come to this. What would his life had been like, he wondered, if he had not alienated his beloved parents so long ago and been disinherited by them? Which did he miss more, he asked himself, his ever-so-precious parents (if he was thinking of the right people) or his once muscular, now withered arm? Such thoughts were madness, Ernst knew. He had never really liked his parents. Despised them, actually. And since they had never had two francs between them their entire lives he should simply stop tormenting himself with thoughts about how they had disinherited him.
Still, though, was that all life was to consist of? Longing for one’s lost limb and for a fortune one’s parents had never possessed? Better to let such thoughts wither like his remaining arm (Damn you, he reproached himself). Better, too, to block out all thoughts of the many Christmases he stood staring through the window, desperately wishing he could be part of the family celebration within … until the Johnsons would shoo him away and threaten to call the cops on him. Again. They were the worst neighbors he’d ever had. What harm did it do them if he stared through their window at mealtime and on holidays? Or stole their daughter’s undies from the laundry line? Peasants!
With spiteful glee Ernst remembered how he had once gotten his own back against Mr Johnson. “You remind me of my father” he had told him, then fled with the Johnson’s mail, secreting it away like his own precious treasure. He dwelt on it all … the feel of the envelopes and sale-bills in his hands … the wind rushing through his hair as he ran … the agony of his arm being torn from its socket by his enraged pursuer.
THE TALE OF THE FIRST BRICK
Stanislaw stood poised to lay the first brick in the wall which, some eighty-seven years later, would be sat upon by Humpty Dumpty. Like a Florentine master of the art of bricklaying Stanislaw laid the first brick. The die had been cast and no more could he and Ernst – dear, foul-smelling Ernst – refrain from completing their task. Brick number one had been laid. The remaining bricks must follow, harshly, inevitably, as winter follows autumn. The first of many, many more bricks which would one day, in their totality, constitute a wall were sure to follow. Brick by brick the wall would be built. The first brick having been laid, the others could now follow. And each brick, Stanislaw knew, would carry with it a story of its own.
The raw materials that had gone into the making of the first brick had originally come into existence millions upon millions of years earlier. After all, matter is neither destroyed nor created, as Antoine Lavoisier had proclaimed in 1789. Yet there was a (TO BE CONTINUED IN PART TWO OF NINE HUNDRED EIGHTY-EIGHT PARTS)
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