Friday, January 9, 2015


            To a great degree, the afterworld was just as she’d been taught to  expect. Day and night were reversed, of course, with the sun making his way across the sky in a small boat which was poled by a great ape. (Though no one had mentioned that the ape wore an eye-patch and had a parrot on its shoulder, nor that the sun kept dipping his hand into a sack and feeding himself raisins and nuts). The moon, save for its annoying muttering, seemed pretty much the way it had when she was alive, though the cat, the rat and the bird who were known to live there seemed all much clearer. The clashing stones, the avenging mice, the sad river had all turned up on schedule.

            “Ironic is saying the opposite of what you mean, in mockery.”

            “So, Pranyanbattishur’s parents were mocking him?”

            “Probably not. They may have hoped he’d turn out better than he did.”

            “Why say the opposite of what you mean?”

            “Why not? It would be boring to always say what you have to say right out, and dangerous if you were talking to someone like my father. Conversation is a game; if you’re going to play it well you have to have a whole arsenal of weapons. You must keep your opponent guessing as to what you’re saying and as to what you’re meaning, which are not at all the same thing. If you’re going to talk much to me, you must wonder if I’m being ironic or straightforward; am I being allusive and flirtatious, or downright and candid? You must recognize my figures of speech as they glance by, and know the happy litotes, and his deadly enemy, the pompous hyperbole, as well as the metaphor, the simile, the synecdoche, the aphaeresis, the metonymy, and a dozen more. You must beware tripping over the sly paradox, or falling into a sudden anapodoton. All this while smiling at me and doing your poor best to keep up your end of the conversation.”

            “That sounds like work.”

            “You get used to it. Start simply. Say something ironic.”

            “The king was a wise and beloved ruler and will be much missed.”

            “Good! Very good, for a first try! Are you sure you haven’t played this before?”

            “Three days ago I was a lump of clay. You’re the first person I’ve spoken to. “

            “I’m not strictly a person.”

            “Well, a princess. There are similarities.”

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