The Mythocryptic Breakthrough of Evelyn Podunk

Evelyn Podunk was miserable at the advent of her twilight years.  Everyday reality had become a bore.   She withdrew from all social interaction, isolating herself, because she saw Death grinning behind every face.   She felt her own body had become a weatherbeaten bag of jangling bones dangling from a tree branch.   To forget her condition she often looked up into the sky, losing herself in it for hours dreaming of her childhood.

As a girl Evelyn Podunk often climbed into a large antique chest in her parents’ bedroom, closed the lid, feeling warm and protected inside like a chick in an egg.   She loved being in the tightly enclosed dark space, imagining it to be a birdhouse high in the sky with the keyhole being an opening slightly larger than her silhouette.   She imagined having hatched recently and hopping out through the opening for the first time, positively frightened then unexpectedly thrilled after unfurling a pair of beautiful wings, fluttering up and landing on a tree branch.

In the beginning her parents were delighted by her playing and encouraged her.  They gave her materials with which to make paper mache eggs.  They laughed when she pulled over her head a large rubber glove to which she attached feathers, wrapped long lengths of tissue paper around her arms, tied over her nose and mouth a beak she had made out of cardboard and painted yellow, and ran around, singing and flapping her arms.

It was the best time of Evelyn’s life and she never wanted it to end.  However she instinctively knew by being around adults that it couldn’t last.  The older we become, the less we fly in the Sky Mind and the more we dwell in the Earth Body.  Evelyn struggled mightily against the gravitational pull of terrestrial life.  She loved her parents but couldn’t help but wonder if she came from elsewhere, if maybe she had dropped out of the sky.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .

While alone in her bedroom, she cut a hole in one of her largest paper mache eggs, then slipped a favorite doll inside, fitting the piece back in place and applying moist, pasty paper-strips over the curved seam and over the egg’s entire surface, smoothing it out.  She so liked the result she did the same with several of her other large paper mache eggs, smoothing them out, so that when they were all finally dry they appeared untampered with and whole.  She kissed the finished eggs, cradling them one by one in her arms, imagining at her touch each doll inside had come to life and started to grow wings. She felt like a protective mother and hid all the eggs under her bed, keeping them secret, because she felt if anyone knew, including her parents, the spell of her enchantment would be broken and her babies would never hatch.   She planned on sneaking out and hiding all the eggs in the woods behind the house, burying each in a specially chosen place, covering each with dirt and leaves and twigs, but managed only to bury two before she stopped in fear that her parents had become suspicious of her behavior.

One evening when her parents returned home from a night out, walked upstairs and entered their bedroom, they found clothes from their closet neatly folded and arranged in a circle around the antique chest.  In the chest Evelyn had made a large nest, weaving together long strips of cardboard and newspaper, tying in old socks and rags, and overtop she spread soft downy feathers from a cut open pillow and dry grass and leaves she had collected from outside.  She was curled up asleep in the nest with all of her paper mache eggs around her, except for the two which remained buried in the woods behind the house.

Now her parents were seriously worried about Evelyn.  After a long and intense discussion they agreed it would be best to find professional help for her.  After a battery of tests and thorough evaluation, she was put into a Special Program in which her behavior was closely monitored and she was trained and guided into developing the more practical aspects of her mind.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   

Evelyn gradually succumbed to the ways of the world, doing what most everyone does, working at a job she hated while pretending not to mind it, maintaining a modest residence, paying bills and taxes, having opinions of current events, blending in as best she could.   She was never believed when she said that during her childhood a seed had been planted in her and ever since had been growing.  She believed the seed was planted in her that time as a girl she was curled up asleep in the nest she made in the antique chest, before her parents discovered her and woke her up.  She felt the roots digging into her bowels and a branch scraping against the inside of her belly, the tips of the twigs sometimes tickling her ribs, causing her to giggle.  She wasn’t necessarily uncomfortable or in pain, feeling what was in her body belonged there.  By how she carried herself and behaved a rumor was spread by locals that she was either crazy or a witch.   The more she tried to maintain her composure, insisting she was as normal as anyone else, occasionally breaking into a giggle, the more polarizing she was, the more mystique she had, the more curiously attractive she became.   She dated in her late teens and twenties, had her share of boyfriends, was even married for a time in her thirties.  But despite her allure she was unlucky in love.  Something was always off when she became intimately involved.  That she was never believed and always seemed to be hiding something led to arguments.   Finally she tired of human relationships.   By the time she reached fifty she resigned herself to being alone and no longer cared what anyone thought of her.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .

She staged phony ritualistic scenes to feed the rumormongers around town, imagining by so doing she was fattening up some lumbering beast for sacrifice.  One time on a busy street corner she dropped to her knees, lifted up her hands and with theatrical zeal prayed aloud for fire to ignite in the pit of her stomach, for flames to lick and purify her innards, for heat to rise through her cold heart, warming it, and to thaw out her poor brain.   Many persons couldn’t help but look at her; and they collectively gasped when she grabbed her stomach, groaning, then fell forward and, letting out a scream, began thrashing and rolling around as if she had just caught on fire. After about a minute of this, she sat up suddenly cheerful, wiping fake tears from her eyes, and exclaimed, “Good Heavens!  My prayer has been answered!  Ho Ha!”  She jumped to her feet, grinning while massaging and shaking out her limbs, then curtsied and scampered away, again shouting “Ho Ha!”, leaving everyone who witnessed her bewildered.

Another time on a moonlit night in the center of town where a few restaurants and bars were still open, she arranged twelve large flat stones in a circle, dragging them into place, upon each one mounting a white tapered candle, lit all the wicks, then stepped into the circle of flickering flames and improvised a kind of chicken dance while chanting and squawking.  Most passers-by glanced and continued on, but some lingered and couldn’t look away.  When finally she exhausted herself, huffing and puffing, she twirled around after snuffing out each candle-flame, announcing, “One o’clock!  Two o’clock!” and so on; and when she reached the last candle-flame, she twirled around and announced,” Midnight!  End of the World!”, then snuffed it out and collapsed like a puppet whose strings had just been cut.  After remaining still for about a minute she jumped to her feet, then curtsied and scampered away, right before disappearing around the corner turning and shouting through cupped hands, “Ho Ha!

The next time Evelyn was spotted was during the day.  She trudged into town with a handkerchief tied around her head and knotted under her chin, dragging a large burlap bag behind her by a long rope fastened around her waist.   She deliberately and exaggeratedly talked gibberish at the top of her lungs while gesturing at the air, occasionally stopping to scribble words in a notebook.  When each page was completely filled she tore it out of the notebook, crumpled it up, carefully wrapped tape around it, forming it into an egg shape, and shoved it into the burlap bag.   She then checked the rope around her waist, making sure it was fastened above her hips, and continued trudging along, pulling the burlap bag behind her.  “Crazy woman Podunk,” an old-timer shuffling by said to onlookers, shaking his head.  “I knew her parents when she was younger.   Fine people.   What a shame.”

.   .   .   .   .   .   .

The last time anyone in town recalled seeing Evelyn Podunk she was living in the doorway of an abandoned old house.  She slept there nightly in a large nest she made out of cardboard and other discarded materials she had collected in alleyways.  Little did anyone know it was a replica of the nest she made inside the antique chest in her parents’ bedroom when she was a girl.   Those who recall seeing her around this time said she was somber and withdrawn, no longer speaking a word, her eyes sometimes turned inward, sometimes looking far in the distance.  She no longer staged phony ritualistic scenes and was occasionally spotted walking slowly through the streets, looking around as if she had lost something but was close to finding it.

Then she disappeared and was never seen again.  It’s unknown if she went somewhere and curled up and died.   People in town regarded her anyway as more a part of the natural landscape than a member of the community, and joked that she probably either melted into the gnarled roots of some knotty old tree or shape-shifted her way into the Afterlife, and there climbing up into the branches of the most wonderful tree she ever saw made another nest, but this time with such exquisite skill and craft that it rivaled a nest made by any bird on earth.   Tall tales were spun about her which became part of local legend.   Some said during her earthly life the branch growing in her whispered to her with a voice of rustling leaves, beckoning her to return to the woods, and that before she disappeared she ceased speaking only because her throat was all scratched up from coughing up bits of bark.   Her earthly life, it was said, was but a long preparation for the revelation that the branch growing in her had always been a part of that wonderful tree in the Afterlife.   Those who were more philosophical-minded and compassionate speculated that the roots of that wonderful tree were planted in the Collective Consciousness and everyone, whether they were aware of it or not, fed and nourished those roots and helped the tree to grow.    Rare, however, was such a one as Evelyn Podunk who contained a seed from that otherworldly tree as it grew into a branch and even as it sprouted leaves carried it through the trials and tribulations of earthly life from youth to old age.   In her last days on earth it was surmised Evelyn lay on her back deep in the woods, looking up into the sky and dreaming of her childhood, her agony dissolving into bliss as the branch finally broke through.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

The opening of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus:

“A tree ascended there.  Oh pure transcendence!
Oh Orpheus sings!   Oh tall tree in the ear!
And all things hushed.   Yet even in that silence
a new beginning, beckoning, change appeared.”

 

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15 comments

    • Thanks for leaving a remark, Jung Katz. I wish I could adequately answer you. I drew the picture a little over a year ago, then only recently returned to it, an angle into it occurring to me, and it developed into this story. The picture kind of came out of nowhere, as pictures I work on usually do (and as I like them to. I dislike art which is too literal and the artist strives too consciously to give it “meaning.”) When I finished the picture I didn’t know what it meant. The story came afterward from lingering over the picture. It’s not strictly based on a true story but I did hope to achieve the resonance of believability. Certain details are based on personal experience, for instance the antique chest. I got stuck in one when I was a young boy. I climbed inside when adults were in the other room, the lid slammed shut, the flap which fastens it closed flipped down and stuck in place so I couldn’t get out. One of my parents rushed in and rescued me. In retrospect when this comes up in family conversations, we laugh and it leads to the kind of affectionate joking I figure is common in families. “Remember that time you were a baby and you rolled off the bed and fell to the floor? I heard a thud and ran into the room, and there you were sprawled out, crying your eyes out – you had knocked your head. Maybe that’s why you turned out the way you are.” In retrospect, I’m fond of that old antique chest; it retains a sense of wonder and mystery to me. It contains a world of possibility. I think as adults we contain in us the memory of certain objects we interacted with as children which retain something personally magical about them. The character in this story also came out of a sense of Archetype. Other things and influences are in this story I’m sure, but honestly I just finished it and don’t have enough distance yet to comment adequately. But thank you for leaving a remark! I hardly get any comments. I must have the cooties. Perhaps the character in this story to some extent, on some symbolical level, is also autobiographical.

      • Well it was an absolutely amazing story, really. I think most people are too busy writing and hoping for comments to comment on others work, otherwise I’m positive more people would comment on this if only more knew about it. I’m not much of a fictional or nonfictional reader, for most stories I can’t seem to get into. I mostly stick to articles online, but THIS, this story is seriously probably one of my favorite stories I have ever heard. There’s so many layers to it and it all comes together perfectly. I also love how it sounds like it’s based of a true story and is as if it’s a making of a legend. You are extremely talented my friend, I’m a bit jealous that I didn’t write this. You may have just become one of my favorite authors from that one short piece of literature. I feel like finding a way to share or link to it on my art blog it’s so well done (maybe an excerpt with the picture? and then a link to the rest), if you wouldn’t mind? I haven’t really posted any literature yet, so I’m not really sure how to go about it. Let me know what you think. Also, do you have more stories like this?

  1. Jung Katz:

    Thank you so much for the enthusiastic compliment. It’s made me feel good and I’m encouraged toward perhaps attempting more short stories. I have other pieces of writing on my blog, more expository poetic prose which I wrote hopefully to compliment and enhance the viewing experience of certain images I made. I have other images I made in my apartment which I have yet to photograph and post, hesitating and reluctant while I turn over in my mind how I might write about them. It’s been an area of personal tension to me, writing and image-making. I find it difficult to balance the two sides. Writing can be so frustrating that sometimes I desire to swear it off forever, devoting myself exclusively to making images. Then I get involved in making an image and the words start tumbling in. The two sides in me are like quarreling lovers, one tugging at the other’s shirt, the other moping and wanting to be left alone, then doing an about-face and crying for attention, while the other then pulls away and wants to be left alone. Of course it’s beautiful when the two sides finally make up and enter a period of harmony, working together. I only wish it happened more often.

    Sincerely, thanks again for your kind and encouraging comment.

  2. John,

    As ever, your estimation of my words is much too generous. At any rate, it heartens me to know that you find some merit in my political writing. I have no doubt whatsoever that you could write formidably well about politics if you so wished. The facility for language is manifestly there, as is the attunement to injustice. All that remains for you to acquire is the willingness to find facts.

    As for your own work, I take in each piece as it appears, with rapt and careful interest. I seldom comment, mostly out of fear of repeating my appreciation for your twin gifts, which are so wonderfully married in every one of your posts. This short story is particularly striking, dealing as it does with Otherness, with the ‘world of possibility’—the Sky Mind. I daresay there are shades of Evelyn Podunk in many of us. Your prose, as always, is pellucid and elegant, and your drawing, like a great deal of your other work, is arresting in its dextrous grotesquery.

    Thank you.

  3. Dear Colossus:

    You have more persuasiveness and moral force in your writing than perhaps you know. I may be more on the artistic side of the spectrum and you on the political, but appreciation is mutual. I enjoy your words immensely, feeling in their pulse and precision a respect for craft which I share with you. As you write that if only I searched for and collected facts I could write politically, I have this sense likewise that the larger currents of language we both tap into could be directed by you and shaped and honed into a more artistic form if you so chose. As I’ve noted to you before, you could move into the realm of literature and be dealing with the same themes and subject matter you do now politically, and maybe through such means explore more of the inner life of what eventually hardens and becomes recognized outwardly in the world as objective facts. I sense also that your vocabulary, the natural range of your feel for words, is larger than my own, and your learning broader. I enjoy your writing not only for the content it carries, its informative value, but also for its own sake, your succinct choice of words, the sense of the qualities of your own heart, your intellectual sharpness, your honest exercising and display of this craft we share. Your sympathetic understanding of the character Evelyn Podunk in just a couple strokes, “Dextrous grotesquery” – these words of yours are just thrilling to me and have made me giddy with delight.

    Thank you!

    John

  4. Dear John,

    I don’t believe that I am cut out for writing literature. My mind is much too small. I cannot circumvent such a limitation, or even try to do so—this Sisyphean business is exacting enough as it is! That said, thank you once again for your articulate, thoughtful and enlightening remarks. They are truly appreciated.

    • Dear Colossus:

      Preceding categories, then, I recognize something mutually we share, and I appreciate it. I don’t quite know what it is, but I feel it, and I suppose that’s good enough. Some compact and potent phrases in your writing which have an epic accent with deep feeling for the Ancient, the sounding out of the older, wiser soul in us, has drawn me to you. I think before we ever made each other’s acquaintance we share something in imagination. Another thing which caught my attention and had me liking you right away is the image heading your blog of Goya’s black painting of The Colossus. I wish I snatched your blog title before you did. A great title. Frankly it suggests much more than politics. I’m still looking for a blog title, and I’m afraid Saturn Devouring his Son would frighten the majority away. Wait a minute: that might not be such a bad thing! An amusing related aside: My sister Amy told me the other day when she typed in “Yodapillar” on her smart phone, to look up the most recent image I posted, it auto-corrected the spelling to “God Spillage”.

      I was so delighted with the chance operation that I signed off after the last words I wrote to her, “Sincerely, one who swims in the God Spillage,”

      John

      • Dear John,

        We are both, perhaps, participants in the Poetic Imagination (for want of a better expression), though the degrees to which we each participate are not the same. This is partly because our respective writing wrestles with entirely different worlds, though all of it has in common—if I may say so—a clear attentiveness to beauty and cadence. But I believe it is also because your prose is more consistently ‘good’, whereas the quality of my own is variable. If this were not the case, I would no doubt be able, as you are, to venture successfully into what Keats so cannily called the ‘realms of gold’. I wonder what an attempt at collaboration would look like!

        We agonised for some time over the name of our blog, but when Goya and his painting presented himself to us, the decision was easily made. I suppose it is a formidable-sounding title, but at the same time it is shot through with a regrettable self-importance, and we probably don’t deserve it. We had not intended at the beginning to confine ourselves to politics, but then our disillusionment with the existing (dis)order of things started to take shape, and we decided to follow it. Nevertheless, I would like one day to return to literature, which was my first love and from which I have grown lamentably distant.

        ‘One who swims in the God spillage’: these words, though fortuitously arrived at, seem to me to encapsulate who you are, both as artist and as person. I couldn’t fully explain why, but they are so appropriate!

  5. Hi Colossus:

    I’d possibly be interested in a collaboration with you, but only if I could lure you away from politics. Something lifted above politics. Something that utilizes your own literary gifts and has you proving to yourself that you can make art as well as or better than many who profess to be literary artists. I’ve glimpsed gold in your own writing. I’d be brother constructive criticizer and editor of such a work while in progress, and at its conclusion I’d devotedly create an image for such an achievement. I’m not however interested in illustrating political ideas or pushing any agenda. I’m drawn to things which have richness but ambiguity and have their own generative power, crumbling away the categories we usually resort to for understanding in the arena of “common sense” and pushing on to expose the thrilling and terrifying unknown in us. I find it psychologically interesting that when we do this, even when we summon things out of our unconscious, we’re still ourselves, we never quite lose ourselves, and become even more of ourselves. That’s the thing about creativity even in its wildest expressions: one’s “politics” are still there as an implicit part of it. One’s politics are really in everything one does. Dig up the roots of the most formal and abstract art, done by an artist who strives to be neutral and “apolitical”, and there you’ll discover some sign, however subtle or faint, of that artist’s politics. Didn’t Orwell write this observation? Aristotle didn’t call us a political animal for nothing. To some extent this is why I become weary of overly calculated political works. It’s a reduction from the larger creative spirit which moves through us and runs the extraction down rigid lines to a place where thought is indeed clarified but the spirit goes to die. I prefer the sinuous line, the serpent of wisdom, alive and moving through us.

    You mention Keats and my heart leaps with joy. There are things in this dismal and sad world, just mentioned to me, and I get emotional, filling with love. All this I return to you with modesty, because I understand power, and with gratitude, because we hold some things in genuine mutual admiration,

    John

    • We’re moving into friendship, Keith. You’re a remarkable satirist. I get this sense also if you and I were in the same room, we’d have lively, riotous, hugely satisfying conversations about music. In many ways I’m a lonely man, closeted in my unpopular interests, but with you I sense I can be myself. Appreciation is absolutely reciprocated. John

  6. Deeply moving story. Had me in tears by the end. So much humanity, compassion and tenderness. Love your imagination and where it takes you. Thanks for Sharing.

    • Your nest sculpture is wonderful, Jennifer. I look at the photo of it in its setting with trees around it and feel like I want to write a play and design costumes for it. It gives me the same feeling I had as a boy when I went through a tree-house phase, which perhaps I’ve never outgrown. The sight of your nest sculpture has brought those feelings back to the surface.

      I hope I wasn’t too wordy on my last comments on your blog. I know you’re very busy with your own art, and as a mother. If anywhere I’ve overstepped my bounds in relation to you it’s only because with you I feel I’ve made a real artist connection, preceding words, outside of words. It’s a good feeling, a feeling I desire to nurture and grow like a splendid exotic flower in a garden.

      • Hi John,

        Not too wordy at all.

        I don’t always respond right away as I like to mull things over and daydream a bit about what you’ve had to say before I respond. Words don’t flow easily for me.

        The image of people in costumes standing in and around the nest is terrific. What a great mind you have.

        I will write more when I have some down time.

        Take care.


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