The Boy Who

for Mimi

On a fine warm night some time ago a small boy crawled out of his bedroom window and wandered down the street until he came to the edge of the world. He hadn't been looking for it but he was unsurprised by it all the same, having never been told of its non-existence.

The edge of the world was sparkly. It roared and crackled and hummed to the boy, who hummed in response until his lips tingled. Then he went home.

The next night found him busy with animal naming and the smashing of rocks, so he did not return to the edge of the world. But the night after that was opportune. Warm breezes parted his hair and the aroma of grape kool-aid wafted lazily from the East.

This time he did not wander but strode steadily and quickly, noting landmarks along the way. A light pole with a chocolate stain and a mummified squirrel would prove indispensable as guideposts, he was sure. Just as he passed a growling kitten with a cricket writhing in its mouth, he heard the buzz for which he'd been listening. "Mmmmmmmmmmmm" he said. He dropped to his knees and crawled to edge of the edge of the world. He sank his little fingers into the cool damp loam and leaned forward as far as his neck would stretch. Now he was impressed. He never could, in later years, come up with a name for the color he saw, though aquapurplink did come rather close. "Oooooooooh" he said, and so saying heard a song the melody of which haunts and escapes him even now. He stretched his neck just a little further.

"Don't hurt yourself" said the possessor of the vermillion shoes the boy was now facing. "You've been upside down for a long time and you're going to have to go slowly for a while." The boy stretched his neck further downward so as to look up at the man's face, which sported a toothy grin and an amethyst monacle. "Come closer, lad. Ungiraffe your neck." Still unsure how to respond to the man's intimidating cordiality, the boy hesitated. "My. The poor urchin has been upside down for so long his brains are addled. How many fingers am I holding up, son? What day is this? Can you name the Seven Eternally Broken Household Rules? The Five Sacred Excuses? My my. It's worse than I thought. Who sits on the Throne of Divine Procrastination, boy? Think, child, think! Kur- Kurna-Say it with me, boy! Kurnackerfratz! Repeat it lad, repeat it! Kurnackerfratz!" The boy was as stiff as the bristly eyebrows which framed the old man's wild eyes. "Come along, then. We'll have to get you to a teaching hospice as soon as possible. Come on, now!"

At this the boy lunged backwards so hard that he skinned his knees on a manhole cover of intricate design. Afraid to turn around, he sped backwards until a glimpse of the mummified squirrel assured him that he was on the right path, at which point he spun clockwise three times and headed home.

He did his best to forget about the edge of the world for a while and especially to forget about the name Kurnackerfratz which he found so distasteful. Mercifully, childhood obligations intervened.

The reader will forgive our small hero his deviation from the path of knowledge if it can be remembered how multifarious and urgent are the duties of youth. Their enumeration here is surely as unnecessary as it is impossible.

A considerable length of time passed and the memory of the edge of the world almost passed with it, indeed would have if not for the hated name. We all know that certain sounds and combinations of sounds are to the mind what label adhesive is to a denuded mayonaisse jar. Irremovable. At first words like kernel or curvy or currant would trigger the name in his head and then words like corn or camping or costume were sufficient. After a while no sound at all was needed to trigger the memory. The name was as constant in his head as air in his lungs. Kurnackerfratz it bounced and slithered across his room at night. He heard it in the playground all the shiny day. Finally he surrendered. He packed up his must-haves in a band-aid box and went into his parent's room to tell them he was leaving. "I'm going to the edge of the world." He said.

"Write when you find work, son." said his father and chuckled. His mother chuckled too. "Yeah. When you find work" she said.

He really hadn't expected it to go that smoothly but now he was learning to eschew expectations altogether. The front door closed quietly behind him and he walked softly toward the edge of the world.

The stars whistled a little tune for him and many of the neighborhood birds lined up along the sidewalk to salute him as he passed. The squirrel mummy had remained in place and the sight of it gave him a twinge of he knew not what. He listened to the moon rising in harmony with the warm drone of distant graceful bees. He felt the need to sing along. "Kurnackerfratz" he said.