Last post I began putting up some of my recent Oulipo experiment with a linguistic challenge — in each paragraph I have availed myself of the entire alphabet except for the letter mentioned. For me it allowed me to test out the boundaries of each letter, and what avoiding that one (of 26) did or didn’t allow for. So the paragraphs contain both story and a bit of reflection on what particular letters seem to demarcate — for example, without “e,” there can’t really be any gendering — no “he” or “she,” no “male” or “female” — as my entry below explores, without using that letter. (For letters A-C see my previous post, where the story that continues here began…)
He closes his eyes again, tries to sleep. Every noise startles him, his imagination can’t stop populating the blackness that fills the space with every kind of creature, real or imaginary, can’t stop imagining a hostile universe (even if it is a pocket universe, small, precisely the size of the little piece of rock and plants on which he now lives) more than eager to enact violence upon him and his barely alive shell.
Still, he strung together a bit of sleep through the night, or at least some shut-eye (he wasn’t sure which), and when he opened his eyes next it was morning, the jungle before him all green, a-speckle with sunlight where it was able to make its way through the leaves and branches to the floor. He was on the verge of where the beach met the jungle, where the beach, from solid yellow near the water, here gave way to palm trees with clusters of coconuts high in their branches; where the trees grew closer together the beach began to give way to jungle, other plants using the break from the monotonous sunlight which was given to them by the palms like a sort of magnanimous boon, so they were able to grow without the full force of the solar energy beating and burning them. And so beach gave way to palms gave way to jungle. Scooting on his butt he approaches the stream again, gulps heavily, so much so that he retches for a bit, strings of saliva seeming to tie his mouth to the mossy ground, stomach empty but still heaving.
A lack: a way to distinguish: child or adult? Girl or boy? Man or woman? No thought of which an individual would find capability to signify. I only know that I am trying, doing my utmost, and if you can do a significantly more apt job of it, you should run with it, I don’t doubt that at all. Look how much work all akin sounds must do now, to pick up slack from gaps I can hardly avoid driving through, as if ruining a car’s supporting parts. Sand: hot. Palms: shady. Bay: calm. Lianas dropping downward, plants thick. Air thick, living things sounding and calling, hooting and crying out. Mid-day: drowsy, thirsty, hungry, in pain, back aching, burns aching, dappling skin with lashing flush, burning blush (burning bush? Laughing at stupid puns). Dark: cooling wind off water, salty air, hoots and crying.
When he next awoke, he seemed slightly better, his head ok, his eyes ok — though it was early still, the dawn just breaking, as evinced by a lightening in the air around him, particularly out at sea, where he could see a mass of clouds gathering, one which seemed likely to offer rain later. He couldn’t worry about shelter at the moment, a little rain — or even a lot — was nothing he couldn’t handle. He needed to see about tracking down something to eat, some berries or something like that. He looked up at the coconuts high in the trees above him, clustered below the leaves were growing, but that seemed too challenging a task to take on at present. He drank some water, lay on the moss near the stream, then when he almost thought he was up to the task he hoisted his body to a standing position (using a tree to help with this). He leaned heavily against the tree, then with some work bent down and picked up a stick that looked like it might serve well to support him as he tried to walk. He put as much weight as he could on the stick — his right side wasn’t as strong as it should be, there was a kind of pulling that he didn’t like in his ribcage when he tried to stand up all the way and to take a deep breath; he hoped this was just a pulled muscle or a cracked rib, but whatever it was there wasn’t much he could do about it at this point. He hobbled along the margin of the jungle, scanning as he went, until he stumbled upon what seemed to be something edible, clusters of grape-like berries with a thick skin; with a little trial and error he was able to determine an easy way to remove the skin, digging a nail in at one of the ends and letting it kind of pop the edge of the skin, which helped the rest of it then peel away easily. He tried not to gorge himself despite how incredibly hungry he was, but knew that eating too much would probably make him sick.