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A LUCILIUS PARABLE: LOST IN TRANSLATION

August 11th, 2019

The kiss and lick of water echoed up through the wood of the old ferry as it moved across the ancient river.  Lucilius grimaced at the metallic taste in his mouth, and looked back at the old and quiet ferryman.

 

“Do you ever get tired of your job?”  Lucilius asked, his voice a bit garbled.

 

The ferryman stared at him for a moment and then looked back out over the bow of the ferry as he lifted the long pole and pushed the ferry closer to the far side of the river.

 

“You ever take a break and enjoy all that money you’ve got?”  Lucilius prodded again.

 

The ferryman didn’t even look at him.  But merely plodded his ferry onward through the murky waters.

 

“Yea, ok.  Tough crowd.” Lucilius mumbled to himself.

 

The distance ahead thinned and the bow thudded lightly and rose on the muddy bank.  Lucilius jumped up to get out, but the ferryman extended his hand.

 

“Oh yea,” Lucilius said.  He reached into his mouth and retrieved a silver dollar from under his tongue.  He flicked it in a high arc and the ferryman snatched it from the air, staring at Lucilius the whole time. 

 

“Well, thanks I guess.  See you later.”  Lucilius said.

 

The ferryman raised an eyebrow.  “Doubtful,” he said. 

 

“Oh, don’t you worry,” Lucilius said.  “I have friends in creative places.”

 

An insidious smile carved up the ferryman’s face and he abruptly stabbed the pole into the sloped bank, pushing the ferry back and making Lucilius stumble onto the land.

 

Lucilius sighed watching the ferryman drift back into a mist. 

 

“People can get so grumpy doing the same thing day in and day out, year after year.”

 

He got up, dusted himself off and turned towards the grey landscape. 

 

“Well,” he spoke out loud to himself. “They said it would be dreary.”

 

He tramped up the embankment and looked out over a field filled with people like zombies, mindless ghosts of themselves, milling about. 

 

“As above, same as below… pretty much.” Lucilius said to himself as he walked towards the crowd to explore.

 

Lucilius wandered for quite a long time, longer than he could tell or keep track of.  Something about the place felt a bit like being drunk .  Time seemed to slow and pass by faster than he could catch.  Travelling to a place he could see somehow seemed to take forever, as though he were wading through a dream.  And other times, merely thinking about being there seemed to teleport him to the place.

 

Eventually the sweet smell of cedar and pine came to him and he followed the scent.  Out of the dingy mist, away from the milling crowd, Lucilius came across grass growing in the mud, short shrubs, and before long he found himself surrounded by huge trees.  A distant zing barely rang out through the woods, and Lucilius walked towards the sound.  He came upon a house, half-built and walked through the arched entrance.

 

Inside was a woodshop, full of tools, saws, drills and the like and a man in a white robe was bent over a piece of wood, checking the angle of a saw before clicking it into loud life and slicing the wood.  Lucilius looked closer without moving.

 

“No shit,” he said.  “You’re here?”

 

The man practically jumped, startled as he was, looking around.  When he saw Lucilius his blank face stuttered in comprehension before it widened with a gentler surprise.

 

“Lucilius?”

 

“Yea,” Lucilius said, overjoyed to see his old childhood friend.  “Holy shit.  Like literally.”

 

The two went to one another and took each other into a long embrace.

 

“So what are you doing here?” Lucilius asked, looking around.  “Building.. a house, I guess?”

 

“Sort of,” the man said.  “Every time I nail a couple pieces of wood together, a few nails somewhere else disappear, and something falls apart.”  The man paused looking around, and as he did, a few planks of wood making up part of a wall gently eased away from the others and fell to the floor. 

 

“I haven’t exactly figured out the trick to making it all come together…”

 

The two laughed.  “Ah, it’s good to see you Lucilius.  Been a while since I’ve seen a kind face.”

 

“I can imagine,” Lucilius said.  His face brightened.  “So I heard you once walked on water, that true?”

 

“Nah, I’m just a really good swimmer.  You know how people exaggerate, especially when you can do something they can’t.  They think you’re bloody magical.”

 

“And that coming back from the dead thing?”

 

“Aw, hell, I was just tired.  People have come back from worse.”  He looked around.  “Though, I am hoping to figure that one out.”

 

“And the wine?”

 

“Well, when you’ve got a group of people that dehydrated, everyone gets delirious over a sip of water.”

 

The man sighed in frustration, stumbling over unsaid words.

 

“Look at it this way, everyone is eager to misinterpret things in ways that entitle them to be lazier.  If it takes divine and transcendental power to be a good person, then no one feels all that obligated to be a good person.  All that’s required is a little misinterpretation.  A little bend and warp of a word or two here, a totally misremembered sentence there.  Even if everything I’ve said and done was somehow perfectly recorded, there would still be ways to misinterpret what’s happened, and what was meant.  You can not help someone who is unwilling to help themselves.  You can only offer your help, your thoughts, and your example and pray that one day they will grow enough to make sense of it all in the way it was intended.”

 

Lucilius nodded.  “Yea, I’ve found much the same really.  But, like come on, even I was pretty pumped to believe all that stuff.  Just sounded so cool.”

 

The man rolled his eyes.  And Lucilius feared annoying his old friend, and thought of switching the subject.

 

“So, how exactly did you get here again?”  Lucilius asked.

 

“Oh, my father sent me here.  Said I could maybe try to clean up the place,”  The man paused.  “Then again, he said that about the last place he sent me to.”  A troubled look came across his face as he realized the implications of this realization.

 

Lucilius shrugged, “maybe the cause is lost if it’s not your own.  Isn’t that what you were just saying?” 

 

The man looked at Lucilius and after a long moment. He smiled, and he laughed.  Lucilius joined in as they both basked in the absurdity of their situation.

 

Lucilius’ old friend looked around after their joy settled.

 

“Well, I guess I’m done trying to build this house.  I suppose now it’s time to figure out how get out here.”

 

“I got you covered,” Lucilius said.

 

“You know how to get out of this hell hole?”

 

“Let’s just I’ve got a resourceful friend in a creative place.”

 

 

With all the jeering awkwardness that comes with an abrupt narrative shift, Lucilius and his old friend suddenly found themselves on a beach in Mexico.  The two were laid out on towels, in bathing suits, sweating comfortably under tall sun and blue sky.

 

Lucilius’ friend looked around.  “Wow.  How’d you do that?”

 

Lucilius smiled.  “I have no idea.”


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