Sin # 1

Sin # 1

By Hannah Phinney

They called him The Carnival King, because it was he who lorded over every last caterwauling, meowing nincompoop sighing out his days shit-deep in the useless tradition of bean-counting on any of the skyscraper’s sixty below floors. His circus-freak charges swam in pools of paper, lock-stepped among sequined numbers. So many reams of paper, such long columns of numbers! So much clacking of keyboards all day long. And The Carnival King sat on his throne above everything – he sat on his plump, swivelly leather throne at the far end of a magnificent office which occupied the entire top floor, and drooled lushly over the numbers glinting on his desk. From dawn till dusk he drooled as he counted, counted, and recounted the enormous sums which had very long ago ceased to represent anything so real as diamonds or Jaguars, castles or private jets…which had ceased even to represent the silly but much-coveted rectangles of printed green cloth…which represented, in fact, nothing anymore beyond an extraordinarily abstract and velvety notion that had become his addiction and his disease. How he loved those numbers, The King did! They tickled him in all the right places. Whether the clouds thickened around his glassy box or the sun streamed in, no matter; he was blind to earthly climates. But he cackled in delight at the fattening numbers, grew heavy under their scorching light or sleepy behind their screens of coagulated fog. The numbers danced prettily for him, round & round, up & down, like giant teacups on a big spinning disk after the young pimply man in the top hat has pulled the lever; and their delineating commas were made of the sweetest cotton candy.

Then one day the caterwauling nincompoops sighing throughout the sixty below floors, heretofore trapped in cubes of particle board, heretofore sitting or standing or slugging coffee or clacking keyboards or drowning in glittery columns of numbers (what misery, getting nines up your nose)…well, one day they stage a mighty revolt.

“No more shenanigans!” yell the nincompoops.

“No more of this circus!” yell the nincompoops.

“We hate the numbers!” they chant with vigor. And there is much hollering and chortling and throwing of chairs in the air.

The Carnival King hears echoing of the great hullabaloo from his glassy box at the tippy-top of the concrete-and-steel tent in the sky. His numbers begin to quake on their reams of paper. The cotton candy commas dance out of order. The papers themselves rustle and jig.

“Stop this nonsense at once!” The King bellows, and he stamps his feet.

“Nothing matters but that the numbers grow!” he bellows, and sees flashes of gold like fireworks in night sky behind his eyelids. Gold fills his vision, a background of velvety gold with numbers falling as vertical chains on the surface.

Throughout all sixty floors, no one hears, no one listens. The caterwauling bean-counters reach an extreme beat, a frenzied crescendo. They shake the walls of their concrete big top until the very beams sway. One by one, as if dream-side, the ceiling-high windows of The Carnival King’s sixty-first-floor box shatter, and his precious papers go sailing out into the open air. He snatches frantically (eyelids filling up with black)…but when this proves futile, there is nothing for it but to make a wide jump and sail out after them. The light wind has no mercy, and he plummets, safety-net-less, to the blacktop far below.

Hannah Phinney is a graduate student in linguistics at San Francisco State, a bartender, and an aspiring writer of semi-surrealistic/sci-fi/postmodern fiction. Her poetry and prose can be found at:

About kingzoko

The fiction writer side: I write semi-surrealistic / sci-fi / fantasy / "disturbia" flash fiction and short stories. My influences are Kurt Vonnegut, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Italo Calvino, Angela Carter, Roald Dahl, Vladimir Nabokov, Flann O'Brien, Raymond Queneau, Ursula Le Guin, and Salman Rushdie. The linguist side: I win my bread working as a linguist. I write about the field and various language-y science-y things.
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3 Responses to Sin # 1

  1. from the rhetorical to the poetical –
    “ Here, on top of the Marcellus Shale,
    along the border between Pennsylvania and New York
    where we are surrounded by land leased to the gas industry;
    where we live in fear that our water will be ruined,
    our mortgages called in,
    our teenage children killed in fiery wrecks with 18-wheelers
    hauling toxic fracking waste on our rural, icy back roads;
    where we cash out our vacation days
    to board predawn buses to rallies and public hearings;
    where we fundraise, donate, testify, phone bank, lobby,
    submit public comments,
    sign up for trainings in nonviolent civil disobedience;
    where our children ask if we will be arrested,
    if we will have to move, if we will die,
    and what will happen to the bats,
    the honeybees, the black bears, the grapevines,
    the apple orchards, the cows’ milk;
    where we have learned all about casing failures, blow-outs,
    gas flares, clear-cuts, legal exemptions,
    the benzene content of production fluid,
    the radioactive content of drill cuttings;
    where people suddenly start sobbing in church
    and no one needs to ask why —
    here in the crosshairs of Chesapeake Energy,
    Michael Brune’s announcement
    was met with a kind of stunned confusion.
    The Sierra Club had taken money, gobs of it,
    from an industry that we in the grassroots
    have been in the fight of our lives to oppose.
    by Sandra Steingraber
    Common Dreams
    Posted by ShadowDancer
    Common Dreams
    Mar 31 2012 – 3:
    Regardless “Sales” were not only brisk but good, real good,
    at Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.
    Sales were good at Goodwill, too. Walmart’s stock was up.
    The war for the consumer dollar waged daily.
    Burger King had fallen in “Sales” to Wendy’s.
    The purpose of the Dollar? To buy stuff, stupid, duh.
    Things in the land of the Tribes had progressed from Columbus sailing,
    the Pilgrims landing
    to Big Screen 3’d Tv’s with Apps and ethernets.
    A world of Screens.
    People had been long watching Screens, movie, and Tv.
    Then the computer was invented and people began writing stuff that appeared
    on a computer screen as well as reading stuff.
    It all seemed rather insane, and boring to me
    but then again I was still miffed
    that My Mother the Car had been cancelled –
    the Tv show that had everything.
    Even the Texas Wheelers came and went so fast
    no one hardly remembered it was even on Tv.
    The purpose of life in the European’s World.
    Get up. Go to work. Come home. Watch Tv.
    I wrote a song with those exact lyrics.
    Then with your money you could go to the store and buy stuff.
    Tv and buying stuff gave human beings something to talk about in life.
    Usual conversations would be, I went to the store and bought something.
    What did you buy? A Tv.
    Did it come with a warrenty? You betcha.
    A remote? You betcha.
    Cable ready? You betcha.
    Now Tv’s were ethernet ready. You betcha.
    Why not a Tv that is a computer,
    and game playing device like the Sony Playstation, Xbox, or Nintendo Wi all in one?
    Just put a cable ready or ethernet device into the human brain.
    Get up. Go to work. Come home. Plug in.
    Friends liked my idea for a Comprehensive Drone Game.
    Vegans could send fleets of Drones against the Carnivores, and vice versa.
    Christians could send Drones against Muslims, and vice versa.
    Conservatives could send Drones against Liberals, and vice versa.
    Rush doing his radio show while sending fleets of Drones against Noam, and vice versa.
    There could be Wormholes through time.
    The Pope could send Drones back through time to eliminate Martin Luther.
    People of Native heritage could send Drones back through time
    to stop the Europeans from landing.
    For all I survey about me is war,
    and human beings little more than their own particular Drones.
    Life is good. What an experience!
    It’s always best to forgive.
    taken from a thread by Shadowdancer on CommonDreams
    31.mar 2012

  2. from the rhetorical to the poetical 2-

    (“ Why should films consist only of photography? ”; Peter Greenaway).
    Perhaps, art should be the real substance of television,
    and photography relegated mainly to where it is needed as news eye-witness;

    or we are encouraging the confusion of fantasy with reality;
    and training youth, deprived of other realities, for criminality and aggro.

    We all know that a large number of children were not wanted,
    and may grow down, not up, without love and understanding.

    Probably, it was always mostly like
    But a new influence on children
    is our increasingly artificial and technological environment,
    including arms, drugs, traffic, the modern city;
    and the mass medias’ networks of control, not communication.
    Technology running people,
    instead of being run by people.

    Many who are concerned at crime, and its effect on society;
    know that terrible crimes and wars
    have been frequent spectacles for a century,
    in a way perhaps new in history.
    Cruelty and revenge: bad, old, human motives;
    have been given new technical means.

    So, children should get their fair share of care and attention off-camera.
    Without it they become alienated, as Marx might have said
    had he been a child psychologist, instead of an adult economist.
    Also, Marx might have said, had he lived in the age of megalomedia,
    that communication becomes reified when sold as spectacle;
    that words, or sounds, or images,
    may come for many to replace concrete reality.
    Those children who are the least wanted
    and least likely to have purposeful agendas or trustworthy guides,
    are most likely to be dumped in front of the box to kill their time.
    So hypnotised by media, many youth become its robot children.
    They cease to be subjects,
    like “subjects“ of verbs in grammar, or active agents,
    and instead become objects for others, and themselves.

    A century ago, Lancashire mill-hands were reduced by their labour,
    exhausted by their lives as they increased their bosses’ capital.
    Today’s continual TV violence
    enchants delinquent youth with their own follies,
    magnifying in its mirror
    the back-catalogue value of film studios,
    run by first generation telly-junkies,
    to shock and tittilate
    another lost generation like themselves.
    This way, we are gradually installing
    a vicious circuit in our culture
    which, if we are not careful,
    may blow a fuse,
    as it has done many times this century.

    The ratings war is taking us down the old road
    signposted by the Roman Emperors: “ Panem e Circusem ”.
    The Gulf War? Sexygate?
    What’s on the box tonight?
    Only increased doses will give the same kick,
    and we export it to others,
    to jade them like us.
    How many programmes should be labelled “toxic waste”?

    In one sense,
    Sid Vicious and the Sex Pistols
    were the cultural heirs of the Luddites.
    The difference ?
    They smashed themselves,
    instead of their machines.
    By now – the machines
    had come to control their minds too.

    So don’t let the machines control your minds.

    (George Wright, written in august 1998,
    on the 30th centenary of the Russian invasion of Czecheslovakia )

    Some interesting scientific news!

    Television is acquiring
    a uniquely privileged place
    in nearly all our human intercourse,
    especially in the industrialised world.

    Most us sit in front of the screen
    for most of our free time:
    around four hours a day.

    The reason this is so,
    Claim some investigators,
    Lies in the marvellous nature of the human brain:
    Itself one of the most intricate apparatuses
    Hardly used by anyone including scientists.

    Two thirds of our brains
    are controlled by the noise.

    The other third,
    according to known research,
    is controlled by our eyes.

    For males, this is the third
    with the noods in it:
    the noodlum.

    Now, brain surgeons
    are at last able to determine,
    with pinpoint poignant accuracy,
    exactly which issue of “Fiesta “
    accident patients were ogling
    when they drove into the back
    of the truck in front of them.

    George Wright 1998

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