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Told Between Puffs, April 2018

TOLD BETWEEN PUFFS

In which our hero struggles to write a thesis

‘It’s all dribble,’ thought Verily, as he crumpled up another piece of vellum parchment. ‘It’s all scattered, discombobulated, anarchic dripple.’ With an arch toss, he discarded his document high into the musty air of his Riverside abode and procured another sheet on which to commence his writing.

Meanwhile, as our hero muttered arcane expletives under his breath, his scattered, discarded thoughts tumbled down onto the varnished walnut floor, riddled with the of Verily’s brogues past. It joined a pile, thousands strong, of rejected ruminations. Said pile had been growing steadily throughout the past wintery months, the manifest carcass of Verily’s spluttering mind. It had started small—one, perhaps two crumpled fists of surrealist sculpture—then began to accrue as Verily’s thoughts laced up, through, and over one another. Now the pile had begun its slow, inevitable, colonizing push from the spitoon behind Verily’s bureau to the outer tassels of his Kashan.

In time, the pile of discarded parchment would spill yet further into the adjacent rooms, an unending torrent of crumpled notes, destructive as Homer’s Scamander, wrathful as the Tiber under Maxentius. Oh, how the decôr of Verily’s sitting room and conservatory would be m ired b y t he u ncouth, a symmetrical h eap o f papers! ‘No,’ thought Verily, ‘Creased vellum has never mixed well with lavish paisley. The pile must end, and I must be the author of its cessation.’

Besides how difficult could it really be to sculpt the opening sentence of one simple dissertation? He had already succeeded thrice before, once whilst sipping Nespresso with Clooney in an airport lounge over a discussion of Venetian interiors, and once whilst petting Franklin, Barbra Streisand’s three-legged Retriever. Verily had all the rhymes of Byron at his disposal, the lyricism of Cavafy at his fingertips. All he had to do was convert his ideas to written words.

But the question still remained: how best to introduce his subject? Verily had long been interested in Mauryan interactions with Ghandaran artisans, but his interest had led him into a niche nook in scholarship, one which required much foregrounding for his layman reader. What a mouthful the influence of Baktro-Hellenistic figural representation on the artistic styles of the Indus had turned out to be!

Verily cursed his curious, beautiful, yet complicated mind, cursed his intellectualism. “Would that I had been born a mortal with ephemeral thoughts!” he cried, as he tore yet another sheet into prismatic ribbons that splayed over his desk. He looked outside his icicle-framed window and reminisced over days spent in summers past at his grey cubicle in Morgan Stanley. How simple it all was. He missed the lack of boffins on the trading floor, the conglomeration corporate jargon. He missed his summer romances, his old haircut. Everything seemed so stale in his mire of—dare I say—writer’s block. Perhaps proto-Mauryo-Hellenistic realism was too elusive a tale for Verily to tell, perhaps his dabbles in Sanskrit had led him too far off the beaten path. Maybe he should return to his Econ-PoliSci roots and fit in with the rest of the beancounters content to endure their credit limits. Perhaps he should take up coding.

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