Broken References

Spanso Griffin has forgotten all the easy, commonplace words. In their place, a complex vocabulary—suited only for erudite papers penned by academicians—is taking hold. He speaks a stilted language that paints him as pompous and pretentious and undeservedly boastful. His old vocabulary hides in fear under layers of slabs of crystalline brain cells, sheets of deadened thought petrified into hard, impermeable plates. The turgid new lexicon speaks of apertures and fenestrations, cursing words like doors and windows, which the terminology asserts are suited only to the simple-minded .

His travel on foot from the east coast to the midwest is no longer a long walk but a peregrination. He no longer glorifies the memory of a friend; he apotheosizes the man’s life.

Spanso tries to remember the simple words, but they escape him. And it’s not just the language of conversation. It’s the nomenclature of personal engagement. The names of people he has known since he was a child  have begun to dissolve into cerebral sludge, a sticky ooze he can feel sloshing in slow motion from one side of his skull to the other. He remembers faces, but the names he once associated with them no longer make sense to him. Unlike the high-minded intellectual replacements for simple words, names have become gibberish with irrational connections. The person he once called Mike is now stuck in his head as Penumbra. He see the man’s face and thinks of his shadow. Hi midday meal is not lunch; it is torso. He does not sleep; instead, he conflagrates.

This monstrous mixture of pedantry and rancid illiteracy gnaws at what’s left of his intellect like rats, watching his eyes as he screams in horror, chewing on the gristle of a man’s broken knee. Spanso’s days last for weeks. Sleep doesn’t come for Spanso except to accompany intensely brief nightmares that would lead to a horrible death in any other man. But Spanso simply awakens, more confused and angrier than before.

Almost all his few friends have abandoned him, unwilling to tolerate his threats and hissing tirades. Only Calypso Collier continues to listen to Spanso’s incoherent rants, hearing in Spanso’s words hints of the gentle man buried deep in Spanso Griffin’s broken psyche. Calypso says he hears references to the “old” Spanso on occasion. He tells the people who have abandoned Spanso that their old friend is still there, just hidden. But they laugh and say Calypso is stupid, a sucker, an easy mark for a madman.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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