The Emancipation of Dominic Lindl

The street was empty, the air was crisp, and a light autumn breeze tussled his golden hair. He walked alone, as usual, in his navy blue Tommy Hilfiger jacket. The thin covering hardly kept him warm, but he would rather be afflicted with severe frostbite than admit that his mother had been right in telling him to ‘bundle up’ (though he would feel no shame in snivelling about a stuffy nose if he fell ill). If you were to cross paths with this unruly fellow you might experience a certain unease, either due to his general murky demeanor or an almost imperceptible scent of the sushi he ate for lunch. It must be asserted at this point – lest I give the wrong impression – that Dominic Lindl was not an entirely unpleasant person, for he also cultivated many saintly habits and carried himself with a refreshingly honest amiability. A second assertion, however, should be made here; that although Dominic Lindl’s well-conditioned conscience was quite functional, he was fond of being mischievous. Not in a terribly serious manner, but similar to how a four year old might hide from his parents at an amusement park. All things considered, I do not believe there would be any objection to categorizing the fellow as “good”, and he was genuinely appreciated by those whose presence he had convinced himself to tolerate – a decision he was constantly debating whether or not to uphold.

“Aw piss.” he muttered, between puffs of his cigarillo. He noticed that he had mismatched his socks. It was an hardly audible outburst, but it was the most socially appropriate way for him to express the volcanic rage that was welling up in his lumbering frame.

What a catastrophe – I’m a freaking idiot! How could I have been so infantile? One blue, one white: this will ruin my reputation. I hope I don’t see anyone I know. Stupid cotton foot-wraps … so useless. I swear, I’ll never wear another sock again … no, better yet, I’ll just buy ten pairs of the same socks so that a fashion-fiasco like this never happens again. There’s nothing wrong with wearing black socks every day: they work for every occasion! Yes that’s it, I can’t believe I never thought of this before. What an elegant solution – I’m a freaking genius.

The bored look on his face gave nothing away, and any passerby would have never guessed that Dom had interiorly transitioned from utter disgust to rapturous jubilation in a matter of seconds. As far as he was concerned, this euphoric realization was the crowning jewel to the comprehensive list of decisions he was preparing to make that would effectively optimize his presently unassuming life. Indeed, it was an impressive list. It was only a matter of time before every aspect of his mundane existence would be totally reformed. It took every ounce of self-restraint to keep from bringing his beautiful plan to fruition then and there, but he knew that he had to wait. Neither he nor the plebs that surrounded him were truly ready for his grand metamorphosis. He was waiting for his appointed hour – the fullness of time.

So it was that the impulsive youth endured his lot with what could be described as an optimistic anticipation. Every skipped class, every overpriced meal, every cigarillo: all roads  converged toward an inevitable climax – the imminent emancipation of Dominic Lindl. A third and final assertion must be made at this point to avoid a most critical error in judgement: Dominic Lindl was not a lunatic. This intensely consuming project of his confirms that this beautiful boy on the cusp of manhood was quite unlike the rest of his peers, but it would be unfair to say that his nonconformity was strictly deleterious. He was, in fact, more intelligent than the majority of people his age, and he kept a much better general hygiene than even the most prudent youths. Perhaps the former was the reason that he was able to concoct such an extensive and practical list in the first place, and the latter was the reason that one of the top items in his upcoming program was the strict avoidance of communal restrooms.

On the topic of his remarkable intellect, it should be observed that he was not brainy in the traditional sense of the word, nor was he particularly boastful by nature, all of which saved him from being intelligent in the usual intimidating sense. He might have failed biology if he had taken the class, but he could receive full marks for a paper he wrote the morning after it was due. He laughed off his inability to do simple mental calculations, but he could, at any moment, improvise some charming bit of prose and pass it off as one of the lesser known writings of Robert Frost. He managed to spend an entire year’s groceries budget in three months, but he was the kind of person who, on the day of graduation, would surprise everyone by standing up when the principal called for the Valedictorian (a title he actually held).

Most people dream of being great and of contributing to society in some honestly helpful and gloriously important way, but Dominic Lindl stopped having such fantasies long before he started shaving. Ever since he began formally documenting his list (which he was inspired to do one cloudy afternoon when he realized that it was more efficient to press 9-0 on the microwave than it was to press 1-3-0), his fantasies started becoming real, tangible possibilities. Most great plans to revolutionize the world start with grand and somewhat vague themes such as justice and peace and inevitably get lost in their application to the details of daily life, but the strength of this young man’s plan was precisely that it outlined every detail with unprecedented clarity. Never again would a man have to struggle with deciding how much money to spend on a first date, because a quick reference to the “Romantic Relationships” section of The List would clearly explain why $65 is the most ideal sum, and on the next page, one would find a most excellent set of first date recommendations, the first of which is mini-golf and afternoon tea (which is playful enough to be a source of genuine amusement but serious enough to give a man the chance to demonstrate his masculine vitality). Despite its humble beginnings, The List was never meant to be confined to himself: it was meant to change the world.

It goes without saying that keeping such a treasure to himself was trying, especially when he saw two people make the fatal error of misjudging whether they would hug or shake hands during a chance encounter. The List gave very specific instructions on the matter (the attempted handshake was doomed from the beginning), and for some un-nameable reason, Dominic felt a profound confidence that this Statute of the Socks was the last rung in The List’s ladder toward utopia. Every other method had proven to be inadequate, and now, everything was accounted for. Dominic got home that night, and after saying his prayers, let the comforting whisper of the rain guide him into a deep and restful sleep.

When he woke the next morning, it seemed as though the entire world was beckoning for him to begin: his deep brown eyes opened peacefully, two minutes before his blaring alarm would have jarred him from his regenerative slumber, and he noticed that the clouds had parted just enough for the sun to shine through his bedside window and onto the 492 pages of the first, and last, edition of The List. He picked up the tome carefully, as one would pluck a child from its crib, and nestled it into his book bag. He would unveil it in a private meeting with his university’s President (to whom he happened to be related) so that it would be published by the academic institution. Then, it would garner attention from reputable scholars, whose weak critiques would only serve to bring it into public spheres. The List would hardly ever be mentioned in conversation, but there would be a sort of unspoken acknowledgement between the masses that everything was thanks to The List.

Dominic sauntered down the narrow hallways of the university, and without breaking his stride, let himself into the President’s office with an air of determined enthusiasm. The President was clearly busy, but Dominic knew that she would forgive his intrusion once she understood what it was that he currently held under his arm. Recognizing her unorthodox nephew, she removed herself from her work, and stood up, both arms outstretched for a warm hug – But Lo!the brilliant boy had already begun reaching out a singular hand for what was intended to be a firm but affectionate handshake. Neither the esteemed President nor the burgeoning scholar were able to react in time to prevent the imminent catastrophe. All of a sudden, every sensible word inked on the pages of his opus became empty as Dominic gurgled some unintelligible sound and leaned to the wrong side for a hug that more closely resembled an unholy attempt to knot an octopus with an eel.

“How are you Dominic?” she asked politely, visibly disturbed by the unfortunate collision. “What brings you here today?”

Another oafishly incoherent murmur escaped the gifted youth’s lips as he stumbled his way out of her office. His brain – which usually functioned with both vigour and efficiency – was currently producing only barely enough electrical impulses to maintain consciousness. With a herculean effort, Dominic began to fumble his way to the institution’s student lounge, and it is a veritable testament to the boy’s willpower that he managed to reach his destination. There the lad proceeded to skip his day’s classes to play video games with the goons that practically lived in the cramped room: subsisting on Mr. Noodles and passing their time by forcing a cast of curious characters into a never-ending melee.  Even then, Dominic could not help himself from gently reproaching one of his peers who had reached for a fistful of potato chips with his right hand – an obvious misstep when you consider everything that must be done with one’s dominant limb.

Dominic went for a long walk that evening. He struggled to reconcile the day’s experience. If anything, the mishap only reinforced his conviction that there was a need for The List: if the President has only read page 341, she would have known that a hug was ill-advised before 10am in professional settings, but clearly, the system would only work if everyone could somehow be made aware of it all at once. A larger platform was needed.

So it was that Dominic came to the conclusion that every sensible young man comes to when filled with a burning ambition to change society: he would have to become King of the World.

By: Renzo Carbonel


The Firefighter

The lull between lunch and dinner was always the most productive part of his day. In Spain, most people would be taking their afternoon siesta around this time, but even when he used to live there, he preferred to get his work done while others relaxed. Perhaps that was part of the reason he moved to America: he never understood the carefree European ideal of comfort. He preferred to tread on the reassuring density of a hard-packed trail than waddle in the whimsical weightlessness of sand on a beach; he would rather wipe grease from his calloused hands than lather sunscreen onto his limbs, and unlike his Spanish compatriots, he did not think it comfortable to nap while there was still work to be done – after all, it was a man’s duty to work hard and make a life for himself, and that could not be accomplished while napping.

Don Phillipo was exactly what one has in mind when one calls a man, “a man.” He woke up before the sun’s bright eyes shone over the horizon, and he did not linger too long in the comfort of his bed. He bathed both thoroughly and efficiently; most men tend to choose one over the other (most often the latter), but Don Phillipo was not “most men.” He brushed his teeth in the same excellent way, and he put on his pants in a most efficacious fashion: both legs at once. The walls of his modest home were not overly-adorned, and neither were they bare. He was not particularly talented in any one thing, but he did most things better than most. He was the kind of man who would drink his coffee black and order his whiskey neat, and one would be hard-pressed to ever catch him running late. He seemed to be able to carry a compelling discussion with just about anyone, and yet was never accused in any private conversation of being a talker. If his circle of friends stood in a circle, he would find himself in the centre of it, not because he was the alpha, as it were, but because it was who he who knew each one well enough. It would be unfitting to ever call Don Phillipo, “the man”, precisely because he was nothing more, and nothing less, than “a man.”

It was some fifty years ago when Don Phillipo made his transcontinental voyage to America. His humble means had only just afforded him his passage across the ocean, and he immediately found himself working in construction in exchange for food and lodging. He ate the same ham sandwich for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and if it were not for the fact that working in the evening disturbed the neighbours, he might never have put down his hammer. Not once did anyone hear him complain, either about the monotony of his day or about the perpetual soreness in his body – he was busy, and that was the way he liked it.

He worked that way for quite some time, and now, as he looked down his street at the row of houses he owned, his pride was only matched by a nagging sense that there was still work to be done. The fences needed painting; the lawns, mowing; the windows, cleaning; and some of the roofs needed re-shingling, and despite the fact that he was now quite old enough to retire, and could have easily paid someone else to do the work, he would rather do it himself than watch someone else do it: inevitably, in his eyes, he could do it better.

It would be fair to say that Don Phillipo spent all of his waking hours either working, or thinking about work that needed to be done, if it were not, that is, for the afternoons he spent watching the street soccer games that the neighbourhood children played after school. It goes without saying that he never let himself become too distracted from the never-ending series of chores he felt compelled to work on, but he did not let that stop him from occasionally yelling out coaching advice to the children.

It was on a certain day in March, while Don Phillipo was outside painting a particularly worn-down fence, that the youngest boy in the neighbourhood approached him. The boy was too young to keep up when the older kids played soccer, so he usually spent the time with this kind old man. His name was Joseph, and he was as curious as four-year-olds come. His mother was always needing to remind him of his manners, but Don Phillipo liked talking to him because he asked a lot of questions, and  Don Phillipo liked to answer questions; it made him feel quite clever, except when he did not know the answer, in which case he would always say: “well that is just the way life is, Joseph,”

It was on this peculiar day in March that something seemed strangely odd to Don Phillipo: he could hear the birds singing their spring songs, he could see the children playing their beautiful game, and he could smell the crisp afternoon breeze that carried in it the fragrance of the sea nearby: all quite foreseeable sensory experiences for such a day in March – all but one. Don Phillipo could not usually hear the birds sing because the incessant chatter of the young boy usually drowned them out. When Don Phillipo turned to find out what could have possibly been preventing the boy from expressing himself in his usual way, he found him reading a newspaper. The sight of the four-year-old boy still in his school uniform, sitting in an old lawn chair and staring intently at the newspaper, which was almost as tall as he was, made him oddly reminiscent of the old man, and that was enough to make Don Phillipo laugh – mostly because he knew that the boy had not yet learned how to read. Undeterred by the small obstacle that was his illiteracy, Joseph stared intently at the front page; trying to glean some shred of information from the pictures and symbols he could not decipher.

“What are you reading that for, Joseph?” the old man asked. “Would you not rather watch the soccer game?”

“No,” the boy said seriously, “all the adults are talking about the news today, and I must know why.”

It was at that moment that Don Phillipo remembered what it was that everyone was talking about; a large passenger boat had gone missing just the day before, and the front page showed a picture taken of it on the day of its departure.

“Well,” the old man started, “that big boat in the picture was meant to sail across the ocean, but – “

“Across the entire ocean?” Joseph interrupted (his mother would have given him a stern look for having behaved like that, but Don Phillipo was used to the boy’s interrupting questions).

“Yes, this one could go across the entire ocean. Well, at least it was going to, until – “

“How was it going to do that?” the boy asked innocently.

The old man was caught quite off guard this time. “Well, that is what boats do:” he finally blurted out, “they float on water.”

The boy threw his arms in the air. “That is amazing! No wonder everyone is talking about it – it can float on water!”

Now, Don Phillipo had every intention of telling the young boy the truth of the matter – not out of cruelty, but because he was of the opinion that any lie, no matter how small, was to be avoided – but after seeing the boy’s reaction to the boat, he could not bring himself to inform him of the boat’s unfortunate fate. He decided in that moment that it was better for the boy to experience that loss later, perhaps from someone else. Don Phillipo knelt down next to the boy, and picking the newspaper out of his hands, took a closer look at the picture of the boat; “mhmm…yes…yes, quite amazing indeed! You know, it reminds me of the boat I travelled on to get here.”

At this, Joseph’s eyes widened with wonder in the way that only a child’s eyes can. “You mean, you have been on a boat? What was it like?”

“It was huge – no – it was massive!” Don Phillipo exaggerated as he held out his arms in a grandiose way. “There were one hundred people on the boat Joseph, one hundred!” he said, exaggerating again.

Joseph was confused. He had not learned that number yet, but he knew all the way up to ten, and that was a lot. “Is one hundred more than ten?” he asked, hoping it was.

“Much more than ten! Ten times more than ten!” Don Phillipo had not finished high school, but he remembered at least that much of math.

Now, Joseph did not understand multiplication, but that did not stop him from trying to imagine this enormous number. He pictured in his mind a huge boat and then filled it with people, but found that the boat was no longer huge if it was full, and found that there were not enough people in it if was not overflowing, but he did not linger on the thought too long because it occurred to him that the boat must have been very, very heavy. He simply could not fathom how a boat of any size, much less a boat full of people, could float. He was as curious as he was amazed: “how come the boat did not sink with so many people in it?”

Don Phillipo did not understand the principles of buoyancy and he began to ask himself the same question, but instead of admitting ignorance, he feigned a knowing smile, and leaning in close to the awestruck four year-old, said: “well, that is just the way it is, Joseph.”

In this way, the two made a habit of discussing the news while they worked on some chore around the neighbourhood. Of course, the news was invariably dreadful and gloomy, but Don Phillipo always found a way to engineer a story that was either jolly, or exciting, or at least silly. Sometimes he exaggerated a little, and sometimes a lot, but regardless of the tone, the stories were always based on some event in the old man’s life.

After some time of following this daily routine, Don Phillipo felt that he had begun to run out of true tales, and it was becoming difficult to think of good stories that somehow explained the tragedies that were sure to be plastered on the front page of the day. On one such day, under the scorch of the summer sun, Don Phillipo began to panic: what would he tell the young boy about the picture that so clearly depicted the devastation in a nearby town which had been consumed by a fire? No story came to mind, and it was all he could do to put on a good face for the boy who was looking up at him expectantly: “well, Joseph,” he hesitated, “it seems as though there has been a big fire.”

“Oh…have you ever been in a big fire, Don Phillipo?”

“No, no I have not.”

“Why was there a fire? Is everyone alright?”

“Not quite, Joseph.”

There was a long pause, Don Phillipo felt a pressure to say something – anything – to calm the whirlwind of thoughts that was surely running through the boy’s innocent mind. He was relieved when it was not him that broke the silence.

“Who is the man in the picture?”

That startled the old man. He looked again at the picture and noticed the figure in the corner of the image. He was armed with a winding hose and his only protection was his red helmet.

“That is the firefighter, “ the old man said, his eyes still fixed on the picture.

“What does the firefighter do, Don Phillipo?”

“He protects people from the fire.”

“He sure is brave,” the boy said, even more impressed with the firefighter’s bravery than he was at the fact that a boat could float, but the old man could not hear him anymore; he was too busy imagining himself as a younger man, donning the distinctive red helmet and wielding the power of the ocean, and he wondered if he ever could have become the firefighter in the picture – standing in ash and covered in soot, face-to-face with his fiery enemy.

This thought never occurred to the boy; it seemed perfectly natural to him that if there was a fire, he would put it out – that was just the way life was. If he wondered anything, it was this: why was everyone not a firefighter?

By: Renzo Carbonel 

A Curious Romance

Into the wild garden I cast my gaze,
to find the flower which I could compare,
with the beauty that set my heart ablaze:
Alas! No such pedal did still my stare.

Divine beauty wrapped in delicate blossom,
did little for my humble heart.
It occurred to me that my search was in vain,
for beauty was not the half of your art.

I scoured the sky for virtues that fly,
and the sea for those that swim;
it was not until I search the earth,
that I found what soothed my whim.

It was not the strength of the ox nor the grace of the deer
that inspired me to sing;
it was the earwig – made by God –
which made my heart ring.

At once I knew that in this creature,
I had found an agent of virtue:
its efficiency of travel and complexity of build,
make it a most suitable thing to compare to you.

By: Renzo Carbonel