Amble Whistletown is in Roma, the Eternal City. He is reclining against the headstone of John Keats, who’s buried there in the Protestant Cemetery. He never knew Keats, nor has he read that much of his poetry, nor has he thought very much about his poetry, nor is he an immediate family member, or a family member at all.
Amble Whistletown is trying to find himself. He’d thought he might be a writer or a poet or something like that, along the lines of Shakespeare. But he finds that instead of writing, he lounges against the headstones of long dead authors that he’s scarcely read and not particularly understood. Keats was like 24 when he died. How old is Amble anymore? Well, older than 24 — that’s for sure.
Amble Whistletown is wearing the light-brown and off-white checkered light-flanel button-up long-sleeved shirt that a friend once gave him. That was back when he had friends. Like some other men, he grew out of that phase. There was Bartleby for a while, of course. But then neither of them could take anything more and they fled the scene in the separate ships, heading in their separate random directions back towards stories that had lodged in their separate heads. Stories plucked apparently at random. Promises made to oneself, apparently well-intentioned.
Amble is reclining against a headstone. It’s not a very comfortable position, but it feels like home. He’s lying there with his neck bent by the cool morning stone. Stone long worn, not by useful use, but by pointless weather, raging first this way than that, for centuries, you know.
He sees far in the distance a multi-colored cigar travelling through the clear blue sky. It moves in a wobbly and slightly chaotic fashion, but it definitely seems to be jerking its way towards him. He doesn’t care. If it is a slow-moving and haphazardly-navigating torpedo sent to kill him, then he will make allowances for its incompetence; he will at least stay put and give it the benefit of the doubt; though he must admit that there’s a great deal of doubt in it’s awkward high school dance approach from the boys circle purposefully but then bashfully but then chest-lunging-forward purposefully and then head-hung and feet-crossed bashfully towards the girl cirle.
I don’t think he cares. In time he sees the wings flapping furious like a dragonfly’s but giant and less aerodynamically fit. In more time he sees that its some kind of crazy flying machine, manned by two in a cockpit built for three in a world where no one ever really knows anyone and the loneliness rots you out from the inside. You try to be a man, but for that you need a woman, and for that you need to be able to unglue yourself from weathered headstones and buzz-cut grass. And apparently that’s not even all you need, but how can he know any more than what he feels in his body and heart? Which is that he is alone and cannot share heartspace with anyone because of broken glass face and clockworks that is his chest belly gut bowels sex heart and mind.
“Amble!” cries Kempt, dismounting in a single leap the now resting mechano-magic dragonfly. Tim, the faery, who found Amble and enchanted their otherwise unairworthy craft, flutters over Kempts shoulder. The short, svelte, beautiful troll named Susan is at Kempt’s other shoulder. The advance is quick, chipper, energetic. Kempt had thrown on merry circle waive as he triumphed out “Amble!” and now he was practically dancing over towards the dejected one.
Amble sits slowly up so that his back is relatively flat against the slightly-backwards leaning tombstone of a great though short-lived English poet, whose bones still at least to some degree persist eight or ten feet down below the sun-lit grass.
“Oh, hi, Kempt. I didn’t expect you here. I’ve been … “
“I’ve been worried about you! I went to the Hall of the Mountain King and inquired after you!”
“Oh, yeah, that’s a nice kingdom. Super enchanted. Nice creatures. Not very real, but that probably makes it easier to be nice.”
“Hi Amble, I love your work!” Susan smiled, as the trio neared the fallen hero.
“Really?! You must have me confused with someone else. But I think you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, so we can get married, if you want.”
“Hi Amble! I’m Timothy! I’m making it possible for us all to share a dream in the way that people can normally only — admittedly generally not very completely or satisfactorily — can share the physical reality.”
“Oh, so I can only marry Susan in my dreams? Typical.”
Kempt squats down like a catcher and steadies himself with his fingers on the spiky dew-damp grass and the soft loamy earth. He looks into Amble’s glazey gaze. “We gotta get you back to the SAW Building! We have to find Bartleby! We have to pull Tun and Arch away from clubbing golf balls to the moon and bragging in cheap salons over centuries-gone publishing triumphs! We have to make meaningful art and thought again!”
Amble looks past Kempt and squints into the brightening sky. “Oh? Why? I just want to marry Susan and have a nice quiet life, but not in dreams, in a real way with real hugs and a family and we create a safe space to be our full selves and not just in dreams but really so, in life!”
Author: Bartleby Willard
Editor: Amble Whistletown
Copyright: Andy Watson