Little Clarence Whistles a Mysterious Tune


A tall dry weed named Little Clarence was whistling softly to the fencepost when
along came a severely dysfunctional and excessively competitive 20th century baseball
star who shall remain nameless. Something louder and distinctly more redolent of a
modern and less restrained decade was issuing forth from the wind that had detoured
through the carriage horse’s belled mane.
“Stairway to Heaven?” queried Clarence’s weedy whistle, but there was no answer,
so Clarence went back to whistling a more traditional tune.
Pretty soon a second similarly clad wanderer came shuffling along and tried to
engage Clarence in a lively debate over the merits of umpire ties. He asked our young
hero for a hot dog and Clarence didn’t have one. He spat tobacco juice onto Little
Clarence’s dried-up brown head.
Soon enough yet another wanderer galloped along on a fine young beast, and he
spoke as if for Little Clarence and for all living beings who didn’t wish to waste their
time when he said, “Baseball’s just another game of sticks and stones.”
“But are we perhaps not merely skulking in another idiom,” questioned our
thoughtful young hero in his faint, nearly indecipherable whistle. And the unrestrained
traveler squirted him with gator-aid and trotted on.
Pretty soon a badger waddled by and climbed right down into the earth.
“Muskrat Ramble?” whistled our young hero. But there was no answer to the
mistaken query and Clarence kept right on whistling.
It was nearly dark before the next traveler arrived on foot and the wind was fading.
She was old and she needed to rest against the fencepost. The fencepost was older and it
needed to lean against her, but it didn’t know how to do that yet. Give it time.
Clarence caressed the moment containing the dying wind and thought about
closing up the skies. He didn’t know if it would be a good thing to do, but he wondered if
he could do it. That’s the way Clarence did a lot of things. He was a contemporary weed,
so he used his video camera to record the comings and goings of the transient light, and
he discovered that the things that get in the way are not half as interesting as the light
itself, but they break up the light into parts that make it easier to understand. He didn’t
know what visitors were lurking in the clouds and he didn’t ask because who was there to
ask? The old lady was fast asleep.
That’s when Little Clarence realized he too was a wanderer of another kind, and he
whistled a little wandering tune. On his budding face he found the kind of smile you find
at the bottom of a rusted Red Flyer when the transient rain finally quits resting on its
belly, delivering its persistent evaporating load of maybe now to the once-upon island of
Forevermore. Little Clarence was drifting.
Little Clarence said to himself, “I used to be over and over but now I’m again and
again. My life has become a subtle distinction.”
It seemed almost as if something smaller were something larger. Almost as if
Clarence were in some rubbery parable involving chickens and redemption and the
chickens hadn’t appeared yet and the redemption was looking for them. Almost as if a
deaf-mute was listening to the wind brushing his face and reciting the passing air with his
hands, doing it with a classical eloquence. Almost as if we had all been merely dutiful
consumers, although not very good ones, in a persistently evasive parable, and we
yearned to contain our story in something larger.
Almost as if this was how Little Clarence began, before he knew he could begin
again, and this was a lesson about once there is you, and then there is you after, and then
there is you without you, whistled in the almost wind. Almost as if a gossamer string
hung down loose from a windy departure. Almost as if the divinity of Clarence’s own
uncertainty had been broadcast small like flung fireflies of transcendent ambiguity.
Almost as if baseball was not really a metaphor after all. Almost as if something
obvious were being overlooked. Almost as if something real, something you couldn’t
brush off, had attached itself to your pant-leg and hitched a ride to your future.
Almost as if you had grown into such a big man that your voice had a long way to
go to leave you, and it made you lonely. Almost as if what happened next had grown so
close you didn’t need to name it. Almost as if you hadn’t tried. And you hadn’t.
And then the umpire expired.

Rich Ives is the author of Tunneling to the Moon: A Psychological Gardener’s Book of Days currently being published in serial @ Silenced Press everyday in 2014 and forthcoming in paperback. Begin from the beginning, catch up, read daily. Just refer to the Burrow Guide.