Monologue – Indeterminacy – By Bob Fisher
I abhor indeterminacy.
Why? Because chance is a lie, a falsehood. Perhaps I can not with my limited means measure the determining factors that result in a seemingly uninfluenced outcome, but those determining factors are still there, perched, omniscient.
I wanted to get out of the city so I drove and drove down the old county highway. I drove past the theme parks and farmyards and further still. I didn't stop till I got to a place where there was no line painted down the median, where the asphalt was giving way, and weeds spread the cracked mud veins, where there was no chain link or barb wire separating the road from the trees and the river and beyond. I pulled off to the side and went for a walk. I set off for a little adventure on foot through a path of trees. I couldn't see too far ahead due to the low hanging branches, but eventually the leaves subsided and I was entering a wide field of soft grass and wild flowers. The fragrance and the breeze of the place was so soothing, so serene I wasn't quite certain if I could remain standing straight up. So I gave into it and decided to lie down in the long grass. What was the worse that could happen out there. I could swallow a bug if I feel asleep with my mouth open. Aside from that or similarly dangerous concerns there was nothing to fear. So I abandoned myself to a little cat nap in the field.
The day was waning. And all the small annoyances I had gone out of the city to escape were slowly creeping back gently gnawing like field mice might once the moon rose. It was time to go back. I sat up and was startled to see someone else in the field besides myself. She stood at the opposite end of the flower patch maybe 75 yards away where the trees started to reappear. She seemed disturbed. It was hard to tell from that distance, but that's the sense I got. When I sat up she was staring straight towards me. There was a suspended moment longer than a second but much shorter than a minute where we were frozen staring at each other like two beast uncertain which is the predator. Then she opened her hand and dropped something, something barely perceptible from so far away but I'm sure that hand opened and something fell from her palm. Then there was nothing but her back as she fled through the leaves of the opposite side of the field.
Everybody knows that curiosity killed the cat, but come on some situations are just too much of a temptation. Here was a mysterious distraction just enticing enough to hold back the debilitating city bound frustrations I came out here to escape in the first place. So I got up and cautiously walked toward the spot where she had stood staring at me, the spot where she dropped that small almost invisible something. Now trying just to estimate the exact spot where she stood in a field of long grass when approaching from such a distance is hard enough, but as I got closer to the estimated spot, the grass was thicker and wind twisted, sharp knotted grass so much less inviting than the soft patch where I had my cat nap. So once I got there it was tough prospect picking through those scissory thistles. Then I saw it, and it filled me with a thrill like winning the daily lotto with your first and only ticket. It was such a small thing and the odds, if you believe in such things, of me finding it was as astronomical as you can conceive. I picked it up and held it between my index finger and my thumb. What was it? It was a single six sided dice or die or what have you. I don't know if dice is singular or plural or both. A single die maybe? But it was not your ordinary die. It was a almost coal black cube carved of marble with the faintest gray cataracts and the points on each side were made of ivory inlay. An exceptional die. A professional die, a die unlike any other except its mate which I couldn't find despite desperate hours of searching and suffering tiny incisions on my fingertips and palms under the light of the full moon.
I didn't think about the coal colored die for days. The tedious tasks, the boring chores, the debilitating stress of so much monstrous tedium overtook my initial enthusiasm for this beautiful little find. I dropped it into a coffee mug where I was sure I wouldn't misplace, wouldn't forget it. And, when I dropped it I can remember that was first time. that was the first time it landed on that number.
What number? I wont say. No, I wont say that number. Even if I tired, and trust me, I have, it would get caught up in my throat. It wasn't like that then, the very first time I dropped it. Why would it be? It was just a simple roll of the die. If you had asked me then what had I rolled, I would have told you without a second thought, but now after all the testing and retesting, I just cant bring myself to say that number aloud. I don't even like thinking it.
I can admit I've been know to let my imagination get ht better of me. As a child, my parents always thought I was just too starved for attention and that's why I'd tell all these fabulous stories. But, just because you let imagination run away occasionally, doesn't mean that all of the weird or frightening events in your life aren't true. Still, when I talk to the people I'm closest to, that I trust the most, about this thing, about the die, a thing that is real, that is measurable, the old stories get thrown into my face. Like that night I saw a UFO and my sister saw a flock of birds. But, in my defense, isn't it practically implausible a flock of seagulls would fly that slow and in a perfectly circular formation for that long? Can I really be blamed or ridiculed for thinking something like that was extraordinary, for them to fly like that for that long? Why is it simply dismissed as a matter of probability? Is it so ridiculous to suggest some kind of consciousness at work, some kind of inexplicable intent?
A couple weeks went by and probably every other day during that time I'd take the coal black die out of the coffee cup and flirt with it. I liked the way it felt on the tips of my fingers, the smooth marble held onto the Chicago cold it acquired while setting in the mug on the window ledge. Occasionally, I would spin the die like a top or roll it to hear how the marble sounded against the coffee table wood. then as it might naturally happen, I began to take toll of what numbers the die might land on and realized that it was landing on the same number every time. The first day I thought, "How interesting?", and dropped the coal black die back into the coffee cup without too disturbing a feeling, and as days passed, I found myself working a little harder and then much harder to get the die to land on another number, any other number. I got the notion, how do such pata-physical notions occur to one, to add another die so that combined they would eventually, hopefully rather quickly total up to a different number. After hours, after days of rolling this was still not the case. Now whereas which numbers the dice landed on would change the sum of their points always equaled the number.
I went to the closet and I got out he Yatzee dice and the Parcheezi dice and I put them all into the coffee cup along with the casino die and the coal black die as well. The total number of die outnumbered the total number of sides on any single die. All that was left to do was to roll all these die once and end the curse. They can’t add up to that number, right? They can’t! It is an impossibility, right? What happened next only happened once because I hadn’t the courage to try again, but when I rolled, yet again I got that number. How? Because a few of the die including the die black as crow landed face up with no points on them. I didn’t carefully analyze. I was so struck by what I saw that I threw the die away. I was terrified. I almost had a BM. Maybe my eyes were playing tricks on me. Maybe there was some dirt or some sort of substance obscuring the face of the die. I don’t know. But when I got my nerve back and went to collect the dice off from the floor, that damn black one crouched in corner mocking me, having landed once again on that number on that same damn number.
I knew only one thing, I had to get rid of the die. First, I threw it out in the trash. But after the garbage men emptied the dumpster into the back of there truck, I went to the back alley behind my building and there it was by one of the dumpster’s wheels, resting with that damned number face up. I decided to leave it there it was no longer my problem, just a piece of garbage in the alley. But everyday when I went out to the dumpster to throw out my trash there it was. The wind would not sweep it away, the rain would not wash it into the gutter. I didn’t want to touch, but I had to do something. So I decided to help the rain. I wrapped my shoe in some old newspaper, I know it is ridiculous but my in my fear I thought maybe it could act as a barrier. I then tried to kick the die into the sewer grate. It took several kicks. A die doesn’t move like a soccer ball. And yes! It landed on that dreaded number after each kick. But I was determined. I was going to kick it into the sewer, stand over the grate and watch it float away out of sight into a subterranean grave. But when the die fell through the grate’s steel teeth, it dropped only a few inches. Something had blocked up the sewer so that surface of the sewage had risen. There was no flow, no current to carry the die away. And inexplicably it would sink. Instead it just floated on the surface. This wasn’t working, I knew what would happen. Day, weeks, months would pass and I would keep coming out here to the alley and keep bumping into this coal black die. I would keep encountering it, and it would laughingly keep screaming up that same damn number at me every time. I was going to have to exert more effort if I was going to be rid of this thing. I got some tongs from my kitchen and ran back down to the alley. I fished the die out of the sewage.
I was walking to work downtown past a construction site when it hit me. I realized a perfect way to get rid of the die. They were mixing concrete in one of those huge truck sizes blenders. They had been mixing concrete and laying down new sidewalk surrounding a new downtown high rise. So, I took the die with me on my morning commute and as I passed the construction site, I found a section of hole in the chain link barrier large enough that I could toss the die through the hole and into the mixing cement. The joy I felt the moment I saw it disappear into the rotating maw of the cement grinder. While at my desk that day, It took everything I had to not giggle or whistle a happy tune. One coworker even asked me if I was on medication, I seemed that high. As the clock reached five and all my coworkers where packing it up for the night, I hesitated. I had no choice but to walk past the high rise on my way to the train, and all I could do was imagine scenarios where something had gone wrong and the die was there waiting on me, stalking me with it’s horrible number following me like eyes of a rapist or a burgher.
I finally got up my nerve around eight o clock.
When I approached the high rise construction, It appeared as if they had finished laying the new sidewalk. The six foot tall chain barriers had been removed as well as the concrete mixer. The street seemed nearly bare. The only things remaining to indicate the work that had been done was the wooden border of the still fresh wet cement and a child ahead at the cross street with a short stick drawing figures in the wet cement. I smiled st the young boy’s care free quality. As I approached him I looked down to see what he had been drawing. When I saw the young man’s graffiti I actually lost control and wet my pants. He had been a work for maybe an hour and yards and yards of the sidewalk had been covered with his work. What did he draw, he had scribbled that horrible horrible number, the very same number that always appeared face up when I threw that dreaded crow black die. I feel to my knees and climbed over the wooden border into the wet cement. I took my hands and tried to smooth out the number, but the young man had written it over and over again so many times, it seemed there was no way to obliterate all those numbers. I stopped and wept. I lost track of time. The moon was full. The boy saw me crying and saw what I had done. He walked over to me slowly. There was caution in his steps, but anger in his face. He was probably very proud of him work and the fortunate he though he had fallen upon, no adults around to stop him from leaving a mark on the street over and over again. When he was only a foot or two away from me, I pounced on him and pulled him toward me. “Why! Why did you scribble that number?!” He didn’t struggle, he didn’t scream he let me shake him for a moment or two till I stopped. I was holding the lapels of his windbreaker, when I noticed he lifted his little tiny doll sized hand up toward me, it’s fingers covered in dry grey dust, cupped in a fist. He wiggled his little hand, motioning for me to take it, take whatever dark horrible thing that tiny fist contained. I knew what it was. I had to be only one thing. I wouldn’t reach for it. I wouldn’t take it back. No matter how much that little boy wiggled his fist. No matter how many times he say “Take it. Take it. It’s yours mister.”
Suddenly the young boy turn and ran. He was being beaconed by a woman’s voice. Another frightened voice. She wanted him to come to her rather than approach the sight of me. I turned to her, to shrug my shoulders and gesture an apology. But, I…I knew her. She was a stranger and yet I knew her. She was the same woman who had to standing in that field of long grass so many days before. She was the woman who had dropped that small tiny indiscernible something that started me down this terrible nightmare. She was frozen too. She recognized me. I am certain of it. She reached down to take her child’s hand, the same tiny fist that had tried to get me to open. When she held it, she opened his fingers to see what he held. They were too far away from me to confirm, but I knew. I knew what she saw. She saw a coal black die. She saw a certain number stare up at her from within the palm of her child. She picked him, turned and ran. I screamed after her to wait. Here was the one person who might have some sort of answer for me about the curse I had been under, small and inconsequential it might seem, it had torn my view of reality asunder. I tried to follow her, but my legs would not move. I was struck to sidewalk. Sunk up to my heels in dry concrete.