—Have you been getting enough exercise? I know I always feel my best after playing 18 holes. Haha. I’ll tell you what I laughed about because even though your back is turned and you’re gnawing a bone, which isn’t exactly textbook etiquette, I sense that you are curious. Last time we played, me and Conrad and Herm-man got so wrecked that on the back nine we were just trying to hit ducks with the ball. We never got one unfortunately, but Herm-man did bean a maintenance man pretty good. He made this funny yelp and dropped to the ground. So that’s what I was laughing about, if you must know.

—*gnawing sounds*

—The reason I ask is that you have seemed down lately, with your shirts rarely pressed and of, I must say, shabby quality. They look rather threadbare. Your posture is hunched and defeated and your face is covered in a sad hangdog look. Your nose is absolutely overrun with…no, let me say this a different way. Your nose is more blackheads than nose. Have you been practicing self care? It is vitally important. I get a massage three times a week and restorative blood transfusions. Have you been meditating daily? I did an ayahuasca retreat in Maui last year and I have never seen so clearly. I made great breakthroughs and insights with nothing more than the power of my own mind. Think and Grow Rich and The Power of Positive Thinking are two books that are life changing, I have heard. I haven’t had time to check them out myself, but that’s one area I don’t need much help in, honestly. I think of the mind as a garden where the flowers are thoughts and their beautifulness represents how positive or negative the thought is. My garden would be bountiful with whatever is better than roses. Yours would be overrun with decaying weeds and some sort of invasive fungus, I sense. Have you been tending your garden because it seems like you have not? You seem to mostly mope and ruminate and stew. Those are three actions that may be fine for a woman or child but are unbecoming of an adult man. It seems to me that you have, due to a lack of self-control or discipline, let your thoughts drift into a negative and immoral territory instead of willing them in a great and useful direction, not just for yourself but the entire country. Based on your body language and my general very astuteness, I fear you have grown resentful of others who you feel may have more than you. I would ask who truly has more than anyone in the spiritual sense? There are many monks and probably shamans wearing tattered rags and subsisting on no more than a shared potato or some other tuber depending on their region—but the potato or tuber is rotten and infested with larvae and in some cases covered in dung and shared between an entire family or village—that would not trade places with someone flush with worldly possessions. Even someone that we all revere like Dick Cheney or Elon Musk. It’s a disease that is coming to blight this once great nation of ours, a tuber-like rot of the soul. Jealousy is not only unbecoming but according to the great book, the Bible, a moral sin, I’m told. So when you let it destroy your mind garden, you’re not only harming yourself but also the moral fabric of our society and condemning yourself to eternal damnation. I suspect you wouldn’t want that?

—Yes. Or no. I do not want eternal damnation.

—That’s good, at least. That’s a small hurdle, but you cleared it admirably. I’m sure there are some absolutely clamoring for damnation, tucking a bib into their collar and rubbing their hands together or a knife and fork in a sharpening motion, saliva dropping from the sides of their mouth in large pale-blue drips, their tongue unfurling, head tossed back, a howl escaping moonward between their fangs. I suppose the common view today is that it isn’t my place to tell you what I believe your problem is, but as you can probably guess, I subscribe to a more gentlemanly, higher code of conduct like an ancient samurai. You seem to have strayed from that path and are thus suffering the consequences. Back in the old and good days, the well-off were treated in much the manner that Kim Jong Il or Un is now. People would paint a mural of the richest person they knew in their kitchen and salute it upon entering. They prayed to it five—no, six—times per day. He had prima nocta not just on the wedding night but also every Halloween and Arbor Day.


—I overhear you crying sometimes, through no eavesdropping on my part. Your sniffling and sobbing invades my personal space, which to be honest with you, I do feel is rather impolite, not just volume and noise pollution-wise, but also, the foisting upon of your emotions inevitably triggers unpleasant memories in the audibly intruded-upon’s own past—ice cream cones dropped, accusations levied, and other things that through their own emotional strength and discipline and hard work they have moved on from and thus deserve not to be reminded of. It is in my way of thinking, the old and Proper way, as rude as tracking swamp mud through someone’s home and stomping it into their lush carpet or even letting a wet and filthy coonhound loose in their artifact and collectibles room. Maybe the expectations you have set for yourself are too high? Another result of the self-esteem push where everyone thinks they’re entitled to the position of great leader or revered industrialist. Perhaps these lofty goals are outside your potentiality zone? That’s one area where other countries do a better job than us: assigning children to a specific potentiality zone. They say to a four-year-old, ‘You can be a guy that puts dogs to sleep and nothing else.’ Have you ever tried embracing whole-heartedly your position like those inspirational monks I spoke of, the ones with tubers and bugs trapped between their teeth in equal measure? Lowering your expectations could be another potential path, although more realistically a piece of a coordinated effort, to relieve yourself of whatever is causing the crying fits and jags.

—This is all sage advice, and I’m not just saying that to avoid being hosed down…

—I think wisdom or stewardship would be more apt.

—And I do quite appreciate it, as I’ve expressed in the past. I do have to respectfully disagree with your conclusions, however. They’re interesting abstractions to be sure, but I think in a more concrete, realer way…

—But who’s to say how real something is? How can we quantify reality? What is the unit of measurement? It’s always based on our perceptions, and how reliable are they? That’s a thought that has been sticking with me ever since the last mescaline excursion that me and T-Dog and P-Dog had in Vegas, for purely spiritual reasons, of course, with coke just for added insight. Even if you were to build, and I don’t think you would, but someone qualified like a scientist or me were to build a reality-measuring machine…I imagine it like an EKG or seismograph. There would definitely be a rocky and jagged line, and I would prefer a jumping needle. Even after I perfected it, you would need to read its output with your eyes. And that isn’t even taking into consideration the possibility that I believe was first raised by P-dog, that it’s possible none of this is real, but all a simulation of some sort.

—I think the simplest explanation—Occam’s razor, which I’m aware is overused these days but seems fitting here—is that the root of my problems, which you’ve so thoroughly cataloged…

—I think I know where you are going with this.

—Is less the result of any mental process than actual physical restraints. The realer prison is not in my mind, but this cage that you have locked me in.

—Just as I suspected. Here we are again. Listen to the statement you just made. You do not need to change and your situation is my fault. That sounds an awful lot like the classic passing of the buck, does it not? I believe the sound of fingertips rustling bucks is nearly deafening. And I’m not saying that I am completely faultless. Although I wouldn’t even know how to go about assigning fault in terms of methodology. I suppose I would have to invent another machine or rejigger the reality-measuring one to also assign fault. It goes back to the bigger questions, the God thing again. How much free will do we really have? That’s something that only you can answer for yourself, although you could come to me for guidance, which honestly I feel you do quite rarely, which is foolish and a waste of a great resource on par with shitting in your own drinking water. I’m afraid it is that kind of decision making and lack of honest self reflection that has you in a position where you feel the way that I intuit you do, which is to say bad. I don’t think you’ve given your best effort to changing your thought processes, and I probably would have noticed that on account of the video cameras monitoring you.

—You’re right, I haven’t sought your tutelage as much as I would have liked, just for fear of wasting your time which I know is extremely valuable, but I have come to think of you not as a captor but more of a mentor or guru.

—I suppose you could start calling me sensei.

—Sensei, how would you recommend I escape this cage?

—That is your problem right there. Why do you think of it as a cage and not a metal home? Why is the question you ponder not, ‘How do I thrive in my metal home?’? I’m reminded of a similar situation in my past where I was unfairly conspired against by a female acquaintance and school administrators. For several months I was obsessed with revenge, but where did it get me? Sure, several junior administrators were fired, and I heard that the perpetrator’s family had to declare bankruptcy due to the legal fees associated with our countersuit, but what would revenge really have done for me? I decided to dig deep and look at it as an opportunity. I formulated a plan to ask my mom to ask my dad to ask one of his friends to give me a job. And my plan was successful! There is no greater feeling in the world than seeing something that was once just in your head manifested into existence. Sure, I had to start as a lowly assistant director. Through many years of hard work and the correct mental attitude and yes, a very significant amount of inborn talent, I was able to work my way up to director, which is how I am able to afford all of this. Actually there isn’t much to see down here, but you must have noticed when I was dragging you through, or giving you a guided tour of, upstairs, it is pretty nice and tastefully furnished.

—There’s no question that your taste is impeccable. I remember as I was being escorted through the living room, even with the effects of the chloroform, thinking, wow, two official movie theater-sized Step Brothers posters.

—A friend of mine is in film distribution.

-And I see now that you are right about my perspective and it needing a change. Perhaps if I could change my physical perspective, meaning the position of my eye, that would help. Like if I was to view my cage, or metal home, from the outside, something more akin to your viewpoint, my thinking would become more like yours, which I believe it goes without saying I very much aspire to.

—But if I let you out, your perspective would not be the same as mine. Because, of course, you lack the experiences that I have, but also, and more importantly, there would be no one in the cage huddled and pathetic for you to feel disgust for. Because they are in there and you’re not. I’ll be honest with you, and I hope it doesn’t hurt your feelings or make you feel unspecial. You are not my only mentee. There are several others with even more neglected mind gardens. You have at least begun to prune yours, even though the improvement is minor. You’re attempting to curb the overgrowth with a pair of children’s safety scissors. Some other mentees I feel are dumping massive fertilizer reserves onto their weeds and chugging 40 ounce malt liquor bottles with local derelicts and then chucking the empty bottles into the garden. And it is shattering and one of the derelicts is cutting his foot on the shards and leaking derelict blood into the garden. I have been looking for a senior captive. I suppose you could fit the bill. You would be allowed to leave your metal home when you were terrorizing other mentees, things like spraying them with freezing water and running a broomstick against their metal home bars when they’re trying to sleep. Are you prepared to embrace this opportunity?

Jeff Wesselschmidt

Jeff Wesselschmidt is a writer, comedian, and filmmaker. His work recently appeared in Emrys Journal and High Shelf. He lives in Brooklyn with his partner and their dog.

Jeff Wesselschmidt is a writer, comedian, and filmmaker. His work recently appeared in Emrys Journal and High Shelf. He lives in Brooklyn with his partner and their dog.

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