Mr. Fred Natural, image by Daniel Y. Harris
A Midrash from the Quill of Mr. Fred Natural
Daniel C. Morris
Bored with his flat provisions, Mr. Fred Natural removed his knock off Birkinstock sandals and silenced his cell. He’d only ever gotten busybusybusy buzzbuzzbuzz anyway when trying to access WZAP across the coast from the Bay Area. Frustrating, this trying to snoop, as if for the first time. Truth to tell, he’d been searching for edible bugs and a milky dew thought to settle on eucalyptus branches at dusk as cheap organic filler and cholesterol-free butter substitute for a “Mr. Natural Brand Foods” energy bar concern, not angelic visitors. He recognized the damp spores between his toes as having potential to ease his muddy mind. Why didn’t you do last night’s dishes? All these streams since the Big Bang, and you are still searching for edible bugs and the Sunday Funnies! Echoes of a daily dose of dissent courtesy of his better half, the usually taciturn Devil Girl.
Surely, Mr. Natural would have appreciated some allegorical cattle lacking spots, now that he’d relocated to a handsome hamlet outside downtown Woodstock, but he had not been privy to prayer because of his flakey father, who never could find the right tool for the job. PTSD was the whisper. A forklift for bowling balls, was how Fred Natural thought about it. O Fred Natural did try to pray, but profanely. He gazed at some white cattle grazing beside a White Castle hamburger stand. Not quite what he’d been instructed to seek, but, although no Gnostic, he knew a sign for a burial ground when he saw one.
For all his efforts upon behalf of progressive causes, Mr. Natural felt he lacked that necessary something to reveal the toxics hidden within his heavy heart. Not the kind of brick Ignatz hid from Offissa Pupp, heavier than brick. Heavier than body chemistry. Unemployable since the Cold War, he lacked a lot of things. He lacked the breath for praise since going around bragging he was passing as a damaged exile who’d been kicked out of heaven for telling God it was “a little corny.” Sybaritic, he felt his belly weight expanding under his tattered “Guided by Voices” t-shirt, and shrugged at his shriveled penis. Excess, excuses, denial, delusion, lies, and lack. Oh well, he could still remember to feel gratitude for his naked feet on the clay. Because of this fact, this fact his feet still settled into an impression of the shape of the nape of a neck on the wet ground, he impulsively bought more of the commercially zoned land than he needed, would ever need, regardless of the size of his extended family in future generations, which, at the time of this writing was zero, down one from but a generation ago. Is it my little dingdong that has caused the dip? He laughed at his misplaced self-regard and stared at the night sky, blanketed with countless stars. Dream on! The truth is, he bought so much land because he was trying to impress his estranged wife, Devil Girl, a strangely silent woman even in the best of times, whose strengths were observation and endurance, and whose silence he could never decipher as anything other than a severe judgment about which he continually felt the need to defend himself. His one métier, he liked to think, was that he was the type of dude who didn’t ask too many questions around superiors, kept his mouth shut about the consequences of being blessed, and did what he thought he was being told.
Mr. Natural knew the nature of the gift of submission to authority (real or imagined, as if he could tell the difference!) was where the problem started (the problem to this day). The problem, yes, he thought to himself, but also the proof of his possession. The proof of a promise of being possessed was how Fred Natural thought of the border between what was his and what was not, even if what was his was really what he got on the sly through mercy and fear and cunning (not that I blame him).
Now that he’d remembered to bring the key to the pink pad in Woodstock once occupied by The Band, and presented it to the Devil Girl with the validated deed to the land where the pure white cattle grazed, Mr. Natural felt he needed other things, things like she-asses and opals and hard-bodied nubile slaves, things, in other words, he hadn’t known he needed when he began his evening stroll. Things, in fact, he hadn’t even known existed, much less needed. Mr. Natural’s mind locked up. Crucial distinctions flew by his tangled up brain without enough time for him to process his blindness to the difference between allegiance and inertia. Stroking his long white beard, Mr. Natural, as if for the first time, contemplated the difference between what he needed and what he wanted, between what was sand, what was seed, and what was clay, and, most significantly, between what he lacked and what he lost.
Singing a simple melody of his own choosing and calling somebody up (not me) became much harder for him after that. Instead of searching for locusts and honey and the eggy dew that fell on the eucalyptus leaves and that some who disbelieved saw as shit and others as rare protein milk suitable for a Mr. Natural Brand Power Bar, Devil Girl found him searching in the branches for angelic visitors. As was typical, she refused commentary, preferring instead to stick to her talents: silence, observation, endurance. Mr. Natural sighed, trying not to give offense to Devil Girl’s implicit critique.
Somehow, like Jesus, nothing literary seemed funny to him anymore and words in general seemed beside the point. He leaped for a branch, but could not catch it. His bald crown was shiny under the harvest moon. His tool didn’t work so good, and still he had not found time to interpret the symbolism of Devil Girl’s most recent instructions for him to plan on taking a journey to the undersea world of night sweats. Is the hole in my heart a loss or a lack, he wondered. Is a sigh an elongation of my breath, or its deepening, or its completion?
Daniel C. Morris is the author of The Poetry of Louise Glück: A Thematic Introduction, Poetry’s Poet: Essays on the Poetry and Poetics of Allen Grossman, Remarkable Modernisms: Contemporary American Authors Write on Modern Art, and The Writings of William Carlos Williams: Publicity for the Self. He also is the former editor of Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies.