Friday, April 16, 2021

Stamp of reality

 "Where have you been?" He glares at me, hurt and angry. How could I have missed the big event? He slew or tamed the monster - I missed the story - just before his 12th birthday. As everyone knows this is the very best time for adventures of initiation. His birthday party became a public triumph. I can see the evidence in ribbons and exploded fireworks in the square.

How can I explain to him that we don't live in the same country? I only visit in dreams and miss out on the action when I'm away. If I tell him this he will think I am crazy, just as people in the country where I will record this over coffee will think me mad if I tell them that I travel to a land where hydras and dragons are as real as traffic lights and Ubers.
I mutter something like, "I had business on a far island. I sailed on a two-masted schooner."
I give him a postage stamp with a picture of a two-masted schooner. It slipped out of the pages of a French novel overnight. He is mollified. What boy does not love stamps from far places? Uh-oh.There is a discrepancy. The schooner in the picture is three-masted. But in the world of the novel from which it sailed, with no need of an outer wind, it is une goélette à deux mâts. Two-masted. This is important. The author inists on it again and again. Perhaps the boy won't notice. However,it is precisely the kind of thing that won't pass the scrutiny of a 12-year-old with a love of adventure.

If you are curious about the back story of the French novel that came to me via a friend's dream, you will find it here. What I have shared on this page is of course a jeu d'esprit. However, I did meet that boy monster slayer in a dream before dawm today. Embarrassed by the difficulty of explaining that I don't live in his country all the time, I did reach to the novel (L'agent de change by Jacques Bellefroid) to fumble an answer to his question.

I was reading the French novel in the early hours, my favorite time for intimacy with books. When I turned in at 4:00 a.m., the narrator had not yet realized that the unusual postage stamp commemorates Joseph Conrad (born Józef Korzeniowski). Conrad became a master of English prose despite that fact that English was  not only not his native tongue but, as I recall, the third language he learned.

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