beginnings of a story.

1

I figured the vase hadn’t been left on the sand for too long. The way the sun glinted on the surface, you almost thought it had just been made, brand new, that someone just nonchalantly pushed it deep into the wet, wave-pressed sand and would come back in an hour to retrieve it before heading back home.

The beach I go to each week is the antithesis of picturesque. Littered across the shore are tires, glass bottles, putrefied McDonalds wrappers, half-eaten birds, washed-up algae, cracked seashells, Coke cans, plastic bags, weather-worn slabs of rotting wood, and even the random muddied shoe full of open holes for invisible toes to breathe. To see such a shiny, unsullied object just jutting up from the ground that afternoon made me balk.

The sun kept flitting in and out of the clouds, and my mind kept racing back to my car, where Jenn was waiting, her mind made up, as resolute as she always was about these little jaunts. She hated the beach; she felt as if the accumulation of waste there would inevitably infect her with some unknown disease, as if some virus latched upon an empty Dorito’s bag would float in the air, hone in upon her, and filter through the pores of her skin.

I liked the way the place had this decrepit, left-alone sort of feel to it, an unintentional kind of neglect. I could sit for thirty minutes there or longer, just observing all the leftover baggage people throw out, all the forgotten junk that becomes beached, no one to coax it back into the water, back into the ocean, back into the deep except for some large, random wave.

And there the vase sat. It had an ornate top, the hole open and ready for some flower stem to enter, some fresh-cut rose or carnation yearning to float fresh water mixed with sugar. The pattern around it reminded me of argyle socks, but with flashy aquamarine shades mixed with pale yellows and greens. I wondered if Jenn would mind me wearing such garish colors. I usually don’t, but I could change my style for a few weeks and see if she liked it.

The thing that struck me was how neatly wedged in the sand the vase was, as if someone had pushed it down: an intentional action. To take it would mean you’d be stealing. It wasn’t like the other junk; no one would be outraged if I swiped a syringe lying atop a piece of rotting kelp or a used condom splayed a compromising distance from anything else. This was different; this was some porcelain Antiques Road Show item; it could be worth more than my car!

Minutes passed. I simply stared at it, stared some more, couldn’t keep from staring, staring, staring at it. I waited for some passerby to come along, pick the vase up, and make off back to his or her car with it, easy as you please. But no soul was around. The beach – as usual – had its typical number of one person, at least during the day. Me.

A faint car horn blared behind me; somehow, Jenn managed to make that the universal signal that she was ready to head home. The car – despite it being a million times better than this beach to Jenn – still made her bored, still could not provide some decent entertainment for her. The radio could only go so far; the CD could only be repeated however-so-many times.

A seagull cawed. I saw it flutter down and land on one of the many mossy logs. It scanned the debris, hoping for some fresh takeaway, something to stuff its already plump frame. We both had scanned the premises, we both knew what we wanted, and it was just us and no one else to witness a thing if we swiped something. I leapt forward and pulled up the vase; the sea gull flew down and picked up a stale remnant of a Big Mac bun before alighting in the air.

Nothing monumental happened, nothing like you’d see in a movie after some one picks up a long-lost artifact, the effects of a curse hurled upon the first person who touches a giant ancient scroll. As the vase separated itself from the sand, the only thing that changed was the sun. A castaway cloud covered the harshest rays above me. Still, the vase looked as astonishing as ever, the patterns triangular and neatly painted on, the neck long and curved, and the base flat and smooth. The whole thing felt hollow – which was obvious, for nothing was inside it. But there was something strange about the vase. Something about it did not feel right. It almost felt hollower than I would have thought.

Another horn. This time it was louder, more pronounced, longer, irritated, impatient.

I could not take my eyes off of the vase. Jenn would not approve of this new find; she hated it when I found something new to put in the apartment. Just about every crevice, every shelf, every open space was full of all these collectible knick-knacks I had acquired over the years. Most have been about the size of my foot. Others will take up the entire wall or half a room.

It’s all interconnected in some way, although Jenn refuses to see it like that. Nothing connects; it’s all “junk.”

“Adam!”

When I hear my name, it’s definitely time to go. Jenn’s voice can become as loud, as pronounced, as long, as irritated, as impatient as that horn. I turned around and left all the other random slabs of waste and refuse behind me for another day. Jenn won’t mind a new souvenir from the shoreline. I bet I could find some room in the den for it.

2

I kept fiddling with my briefcase as I sat on the Tube to work. At age thirty-five, the same pointless trek that lasts approximately thirty-one minutes, fifteen-seconds, give or take a few nanoseconds: it was somewhat thrilling ten years ago, a fresh journey to the center of this city. I guess I did manage to snag a job and keep it safe. Soon, today, I’ll be fiddling with papers and fiddling with e-mail accounts and computer screens, just like every other day, just like every fucking weekday the past ten years
. My mind was never as clear as now. I was even quite chuffed about the view I had this morning. Of course, I’m not speaking outside of the train, as the only thing I saw was black stone wall as the train rushed past. The people were different this time. You get some of the regular passengers you recognize; then, you have the quirky – and sometimes queer – newbies.

A gaggle of tourists occupied the space to my left, taking some of my own in the process. I moved my briefcase closer to me, like a talisman, hoping to gain as much power from it as I could. To protect myself from such vile creatures.

They were tittering away, gazing at pictures of Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, The Eye. Every single bleeding landmark you could find. Maybe Guy Fawkes had the right idea about Parliament. Maybe his real intention was to snuff out all the undesirables in one quick explosion…

Why do you have those pictures still on there, Phoebe? God!”

“Because they’re so hilarious! And they’re blackmail photos, which makes them even better.”

“Delete them!”

“Yeah right!”

“I’m serious. You have to delete them…”

“Aw, you both were so wasted last night!”

“I didn’t have that much, Rae—”

“Excuses, excuses… Oh, look! There’s that cute guy you talked to.”

“They call ’em blokes here.”

More titters. Fuck if I know how their laughs can get so high-pitched.

“Sorry, bloke. He had the hottest accent ever!”

“Oh, yeah…”

“Luckily you don’t have any pics from the nasty bar after that one.”

“They’re pubs here, Phoebe. Not bars!”

“Oh, sorry. I keep forgetting my Britishisms! Isn’t that right, good chap?”

My head almost shook off my head. The stupefied reverie I had been in was almost too intense; it was as if the girls had been professional charmers with spectacular gifts of hypnotism. The girl closest to me laughed and nudged me in the shoulder. She wore a very tight halter-top with Mind-The-Gap superimposed over Great Britian’s flag; she was the one who grossly used the word “chap” when questioning me.

“I’m talking to you, you ol’ bloke!”

“Oh, sorry.”

“Sorry! You hear how he said ‘sorry’?”

Fucking hell… My voice faltered; I could not say anything else. They were all chiming in loudly as the impersonal voice overhead shouted “Piccadilly Circus!” in a similar tone and accent as mine.

“Change here for…”

“I love that accent. I’m guessing you live here, then.”

“Yes.”

“We don’t.”

“I wouldn’t have guessed.”

The doors slid open, and more passengers – some familiar, others as foreign as these obnoxious tourists – found their way into the car. We set off again, this time to Charing Cross.

I tried to close my eyes and wish away the four girls beside me; if I had only bought a newspaper from the corner stand near the station. Or just some book. Something. Fucking rotten luck!

“We’re getting off next stop you know! We’re gonna see Trafalgar Square again!”

“How nice.”

“You ever been there?”

“Yes, but it’s been quite a while.”

“If I lived around here, I’d go there like every single day!”

Piss off.

The charm would remain for a week, but I highly doubt these girls would find The Charing Cross tunnel that interesting for that much longer. Maybe if giant, flashing, Vegas-like marquees began popping up higgledy-piggledy – maybe then, they’d find something to run to each day. They’d be lured in like mosquitoes to one of those lights that kill them with one quick zap. I couldn’t hope for anything more. Maybe I’m one of those lantern-like lights…

My mobile rang. The voice overhead belted our current stop once again and which lines connected with ours.

“Hiya…”

“Bye, guy! Hey, what’s your name?”

“Adam, can you head over to the side café instead of coming straight into the office?”

“That’s fine, Mark. I’ll meet you ther
e.”

“See you, Mark! I’ll miss your incredible accent…”

I’m sure you fucking will.

I shut the phone as soon as the doors slammed shut in front of me. The separation between me and them felt completely absolute now. No more idiotic talk about accents and how incredible my voice was. If I knew I could have provided that much pleasure to every one of the twenty-three year olds from God-knows-where in the United States, I’d have moved there ages ago!

My brain felt like something fluid and open, able to move around freely. It almost felt congealed, soupy, like goulash. I almost didn’t hear the friendly voice of the woman hidden behind the speakers near the ceiling.

Time to exit to the café. Time to pass 59 more tourists before I meet up with Mark. The talk will be banal and pointless there: it’ll be a bloody waste of an hour. At least I’ll get free tea out of it. Mark likes coffee though; I might have to deal with that.

Hypnotism sounds like a fair trade-off for having to sit in the coffeehouse with Mark.

Maybe I can lure those accent-adoring Americans over.

Maybe I can use smoke signals.

3

To Whom It May Concern;

The brown-nosed dolphin shouts loudly in the meadow as it leaps above the surface of the tallest grasses, taking a long, deep breath of fresh country air before diving back underneath the long thickets of ragweed and dandelions. It swims around for thirteen hours a day – sometimes without a break – and attempts to impress its fellow dolphin friends with its cacophonous calls and its impressive somersaults in the air. Most likely, you will find the male dolphins longing to impress the opposite gender and sometimes those of the same gender; they are obviously the loudest, the most vocally charged sex. They cannot contain how electrifying it is for them to leap above the Kazakh plains and twirl into those exciting arcs. They are the ones who will boast that they have the highest trail beneath the baking summer sun, and then aiming for the best, the lushest incline to dive back through before meandering and curling around through the foliage so, so very close to the earth’s surface.

It’s no wonder that other wildlife like to keep a fair distance from these active and gregarious creatures. The titunahappuks are one such creature. They are flimsy and weak, enough to snap in two if they accidentally crossed paths with those rambunctious critters with fin and snout. The height of the average titunahappuk is around two feet tall, but its width barely reaches three inches. They love to cling to the long, curving blades of wild-weed and chamomile that stretch up farther here in Kazakhstan than in any other country in the world. The long plants and the sweet-smelling flowers are rich in nutrients and also quite alluring to these tiny, thin creatures that look almost like monkeys upon closer inspection, but without the fur and – seemingly – without any musculature about them.

Titunahappuks curiously do coexist with the brown-nosed dolphin, but they are continually shunted to the side, far from the most active locations, because the dolphins can most definitely get carried away with their jumps high to the sky and their curvatures through the dense patches of weed and plant, their shouts louder than a train engine at times, their tail fins almost double – nay, triple – the titunahappuk’s size! Although they fear being caught in the fray of one dolphin’s show, the titunahappuk enjoys watching them show off, leap high, gracefully flip and do even more tricks in midair before flinging themselves back into the tall grasses.

The titunahappuk’s vision is better than a human’s, better than the most powerful eagle. It can see objects miles, many miles away. This is definitely beneficial for them, so that they know how much of a distance to keep from the dolphins and also so that they know if one might be approaching too close in a sprint of mindless carousal.

I could go on about these two creatures for hours and hours on end; I lived with them for two-and-a-half years. However, a further two-page description of them would be a tiny exposé of what I know about them; you shall have to purchase my book for the more riveting details!

There are even more of these rare creatures to be found in the world – especially in the unknown steppes, savannahs, taigas, tundra, and other locations still yet uncharted in our world. Species like the purple-skinned cankle, the borgabsidq, and the Moroccan slipscad have not yet been given proper research. I, Adam Murat Büyükgöz, yearn with all my soul to travel to the Moroccan desert, to the topmost peaks of the Urals, and – oddly enough – the cityscapes of England (where the cankle is supposedly native). I shall perform more research upon these particular animals: the cankle, the borgabsidq, and the slipscad. My 341-page exploration and investigation of the almost-endlessly sweeping meadows of Kazakhstan have brought widespread attention to the titunahappuk and the brown-nosed dolphin; it has brought heavy and positive responses by many different organizations and even from ones created far from the heavy arms of bureaucracy.

I hope that, with your help, I can be able to learn more about the other lesser-known species on this planet before they are wiped out by human carelessness and environmental blunders. With your donations, with your support, I will go to various locations in England, traverse the swirling edges of the Sahara in Morocco, and climb the roughest mountains in Russia. It is all to investigate the lives of creatures we do not know much about; it is all about trying to save them from almost instant annihilation. Please, help me in this endeavor.

Yours truly,

Adam Murat Büyükgöz

seven equals perfection

There are quite a few songs at the present time that have been giving me the chills: indefinable moments that just make me stop whatever I do and listen long and hard at what I’m hearing. It could be the words, could be the rhythm, or just the way everything just sounds inexplicably perfect. I just become almost enmeshed in every single auditory pulse.

Here are a few:

“Structure and Discipline” track from the American Beauty soundtrack.
“Trapeze Swinger” – Iron & Wine
“Smokers outside the Hospital Doors” – Editors
“Kreuzberg” – Bloc Party
“Nude” – Radiohead
“Read My Mind” – The Killers
“Dream Brother” – Jeff Buckley