My dog Scrapple was digging up my yard one day. I hightailed to scold him. Come to find out, Scrapple had dugged up this old thing, looks like a paper, a document of some sort. I don’t know what it means. Don’t right know if it means anything, actually. Letters a buncha hooks and ciphers squiggly as a tub of nightcrawlers.
I showed it to some pointyheaded, so-called experts. They don’t listen to me much, don’t look at it even. Some hoax, like I’s ribbing them. Balderdash and horse-hockey, what they think. One old lady down at the archives who wore a gray pantsuit, her glasses dangling over her withering cleavage, she kindly informed me that whatever it might be it was all beyond her specialization. The paper’s not wood-based, and so it couldn’t be carbon-dated, what’s she said. Then she put her glasses back on, and her eyes got really small and faraway.
I took it to another bigshot, a man who works at the university up the road. A little bald stick of a man with a bulgy forehead. Irregular brown moles budded on his neck. He fingered the paper, humming and hawing, in the dark corner where he worked. Then he said, Yup, this reminds me of an ancient fable: an Egyptian king has a servant who invents what we know as hieroglyphics. The servant claims this system of writing would improve memory, but, when the king decrees everyone uses it, the system actually only produces more forgetfulness in the souls of those who’ve spent years learning it. And they can’t unlearn it, so reality begins to dissipate into doubtful hand-me-down fragments.
Then the little man swiveled away in his chair back into the shadows where his overflowing piles of records and tomes looked like a fire hazard. Well, god a’ mighty, I didn’t rightly understand his jabbering, either, any better than I did that paper.
Finally, I took it to Sally Pickernell at the pawnshop in town. But she said, Hell, Daryl, you think I can sell a scrap of—what da fuck is this anyway? Paper? You’ve gone out of your noggin. Bring me another one of those fancy scrimshaw penknives or a Confederate flask like you did before, will ya? Now those be worth something. Even taxidermy’d roadkill would fetch more than this. Don’t dick me down again, Daryl.
I often ’spect my discovery’s a fragment from an important document; other times I ’spect it’s merely rubbish and scutwork. A newspaper clipping. Some religious flapdoodle’s wacked-out ramblings. Or maybe a note put in a time-capsule from long ago. Or maybe a note left by future time-travelers who’ve whisked this tidbit into the past. Or maybe a more enlightened alien civilization deposited this message here as a way to communicate some powerful cosmic truths?
I keep staring at it, over and over. I damn near feel illiterate sometimes. I can’t make out one single word. Times like that, all language splutters off. I have a serious case of brain fog. Not sure I even speak American anymore. You ever feel that way?
Scrapple sniffs it, whines, and seems to know more than me about this mystery. But I tell you, there’s a peculiar beauty to the words. Just the shape of ’em, that is. I imagine their music. It’s a music that haunts me, that infects all my dreams. A pure example of what people once referred to as poetry, I think. I’ve never found nothing else like it. And I’ve practically dugged up the whole rest of my backyard a-lookin’.
This is my attempt to appeal to the general public: any help deciphering this thingamabob would be much appreciated. Language buffs, amateur historians, and anyone with an interest in old-timey artifacts, please contact Daryl Hillbottom at 231 Deer Tick Lane, Ragthorn, Tennessee. Thank you most kindly in advance.
Banner Image: Pixabay.com