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THE MISERY OF AGE

©  WRiTER oN THe MoON

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Emmas' Loom. The Bristolian Grandmother

Alan and Javier were thirteen years old and, because of those thirteen years, they had a way of expressing themselves that sometimes bordered on pompous and pedantic.

They discovered life with amazing fertility and that July night a seed they didn't even know existed would be planted, unknowingly, in them. They, more than the rest of the kids in Bristol, needed to have enchanted objects. If they didn't have any they made sure to make some.

As their granny from Chinchón used to say; a toy isn't a toy until a child gives it a soul.

Javier suspected, because of the nervous way he was acting all day, that Alan had a secret that he wanted to tell him. It was like a nervous tick. As it should be, theirs was no ordinary friendship.

No.

They were inseparable playmates since they were little, playing in the park, in the alleys and the countryside around Chinchón in Spain. Along with Victor, Alberto and Arturo. The five of them, more than five years ago, were known as the "The Scissor Gang".

A terrible tragedy, of sorrowful proportions, pushed Javier's mother, Elena, to escape from Chinchón with nothing more than the clothes she was wearing. On the contrary, it was love that tore Sara away from her family, ending up living and working in Bristol. For that reason and for the contrast between the two cultures which they, like chameleons, adapted to, Javier knew Alan perfectly. They had molded the molecules of friendship to unimaginable limits. One afternoon in Autumn they forged a life or death agreement. All of these factors would push Alan, once the movie was over, to share an extraordinary secret that supposedly he should not tell anyone for any reason.

"I don't believe it! You never saw The Gremlins? Ever? Where have you been, in what world do you live in?" Alan asked, returning to the room after taking a shower.

"What's the big deal? It's a hundred years old and no, no I hadn't seen it before. And it's Ok! I only saw the new version. I didn't even know there was this old one until I saw the announcement and you got all hysterical because we would be able to see it together. With your mother, just in case you forgot."

"I saw this version with my grandmother when I was five or six," replied Allen. "She went crazy over the scene where the gremlins tricked Billy into letting them eat the chicken after midnight. To tell you the truth, I didn't remember anything at all."

"You mean it wasn't like you remembered?" asked Javier.

"Not at all, But, you know, I liked it. Did you?"

"Well. Humpf...too old and too slow, don't you think?" analyzed Javier, not wanting to offend his friend. "You could see how fake everything was. Really fake. And not at all believable from my point of view. Without saying anything to immerse you."

"What do you expect from that long ago? Immersive movies didn't even exist yet! But even so, it's incredible, the essence of pure cinema! A genuine classic from the old days," he stated in an instant of intellectual effervescence," and at that, the towel around his waist slipped and fell off his waist. "Don't look at me, I'm naked!"

They both laughed.

After joking around, Alan became quiet and he realized he was beating around the bush. Sketching time in his mind, he imagined he was a child from the last century. He showed signs of becoming a great philosopher, if it weren't for the fact that philosophers were looked upon as parasites in the contemporary society.

Stop being an idiot, OK? he said to himself while getting dressed. His nervousness was getting to him as he studied Javier and made a strange gesture. He was agitated, exploring the ground, not knowing if he could trust Javier with this new secret. Not because he wouldn't know how to keep it, (although this doubt did linger as he was a bit of a loudmouth) but because of the risk he was putting him in by telling him. He sighed and stretched his skinny arms. His almond colored eyes with yellow specks rested on his watch and he said, "There is something I want, should, tell you."

Javier just looked at him without blinking.

He put his feet on the table and crossed them, leaning back in the black synthetic chair. He began to rock and as he did so he spotted the weaver's loom that his father Jack had given him and upon which there was a chipboard that turned it into a table. His gestures were overly reacted, silly.

"Get to the point, ass hole," said Javier in an insolent tone. "I can't stand you when you get all thoughtful and mystical and out on the limb. I mean it man. Get to the f...king point."

"Do you know what that thing is that the table is resting on?" asked Alan, astonished at his own rebeldy, and enjoying the advantage he had in this situation.

"Are you serious?"

Alan nodded.

"Well of course I know what it is, It's your father loom, that used to be your grandmother Emma's loom and belonged during many, many years to the anglo saxon side of your family. The Lamb Club. The English."

"That's right man, that's right." responded Alan.

"So? Now that I have passed the test, where do we go with this?"

"Well, first, that my father hates the fact that I use it to put all my stuff on. He is always telling me that all of my computer screens have sucked out my soul. And that a loom is a delicate machine. I should never have it covered up with my junk."

"Yeah! My mother says the same thing about my screens. That's why she won't let me use the interactive contact lenses."

"Can I finish?" asked Alan sternly.

"Damn! What a foul mood you're in my friend." Javier answered, crossing his arms indignantly.

"Then he says that I will be dirty when I die and that there might not be anything left in my insides to pull out and weave. Yes my friend," he went on, imitating the voice of his father, "My father is full of metaphysical bullshit. But..."

Silence.

He held in the words as though he had come to a Stop sign. What was really before him was a giant cliff and if he took just one more step he would fall and there would be no turning back.

"So? Are you going to tell me what's going on with this loom? Maybe it can't get wet and you can't give it food after midnight?" laughed Javier, alluding to the movie they had just seen.

"Mon amie, that is just where I wanted to bring you. Look what I found in a secret compartment in one of the legs of the loom."

He took a tin box out of a drawer and when he opened it he pulled out a small book. He studied it as though he had found some kind of unreal object. He handed it to Javier who took it carefully.

"The Basic Guide for Weaving the Dead." he read out loud, looking from the book to Alan and from Alan back to the book.

"And just exactly how does this work?" Javier asked incredulously. "So, this is a basic guide to weave dead people? Come on man, where the fuck did you find this thing?"

After he had read the title Alan eyed him curiously, as though they had just found a treasure.

"It's going to be true after all that...." Alan insinuated.

"What? What's going to be true?"

"That our families..."

"What?"

"Shit. Stop interrupting me. You know, you idiot. You say it, if you've got the balls."

"That they weave dead people and then they wash them? Sure man, sure! Those were the kind of funny stories we heard our parents talking about when we were little. Our grandmothers talked about it when they used to sit outside cooling off." he said as he burst out laughing as he hunched over and acted like he was using a cane.

Alan took off talking and couldn't stop. He rambled on about a series of vague memories where it was rumored that there were people that were so dirty that the dirt got clogged up in their ribs and it came to the point that the light couldn't shine through their souls. They became so coarse and inert that when they died it was a tremendous chore to get them clean.

"Alan, listen man, listen to me!" Javier said solemnly as he held him firmly by the shoulders, "You're not so dumb that you believe this crap, are you?"

"Did you see my mother doing the wash today?"

"And hang it out to dry?"

"Yep, I saw that too."

"Well, what she was washing was...people. I'm positive. And what she was hanging out on the clothes line too. You want to bet?"

"Oh come on Alan! It's just clothes. Your family has a laundry. It's that simple! What else would your parents do but wash and dry clothes? Bullshit, man, bullshit...let it go now, you're losing a marble! And when you start losing marbles you end up like all the loonies and you already have a few symptoms."

"It's true!" Alan insisted, "My mom says there are these thugs that want to close all the laundries in the whole world and get rid of their art. She's been saying it for the last three days, acting like she was half drugged or something. I am adding up all the facts and it's leading me to the conclusion that it's true."

He was right as far as the laundries were concerned. After the collapse there remained very few.

"Your mother told you that they weave and wash the dead?"

"No!"

"Well then?"

Alan pointed at the book. He pushed his chair over to where Javier was sitting, biting into a leftover crumpet.

"Open the book."

Javier obeyed, opening the book at the lower right corner. Nevertheless, inside all they could see were the instructions about how to use the loom. They turned the pages until they reached page number seventeen. They stopped abruptly at a very strange drawing. They were looking at the figure of a man, illustrated in the purest Leonardo Da Vinci style, encaged in a weavers loom. Marked categorically with two symbols that could compare with the letter x, were two orifices representing the departure from the body. These connected the person to the loom. One was situated in the upper chest, just a few fingers below the clavicles, and the second was on the forehead and between the two eyebrows, the bindi.

They gruesomely began to fantasize.

The crows cawed in the almond tree at the entrance.

The day was over. Another rain storm fell on Park Street Launderette. In the back cover of the manual there was a page that opened opposite of the normal turning of pages. And there they found a cutting from the Bristol Evening Post dated 1952 that someone had saved at one time, as though they had thought it important.

Bristol Evening Post

AGING:

Myths and legends about laundromats

A kiss and a slap across the face from some extinct newspaper from the last century. Alan refolded it, following the same folds it already had. He put it back and they read the last and only paragraphs in the book.

Age ends up transforming us into misery. And dirty, death comes to us.

The weavers,and consequently the hands of the washers, took custody of this secret and essential art with their lives. The secret must not escape from their immediate circle of coworkers.

If you dedicate your life to this altruistic art, you must dedicate it conscientiously.

If this information sees the light outside of the circle the consequences would be immediate, for transmitter as well as the receiver.

DEATH

Despite the mistake committed and having produced a death related to aging, it will be guaranteed: Woven cloth, cleaning and drip drying.

"Stop, stop, stop, stop. OK, OK. If I got this right, I am the transmitter, right?" Alan said as he raised his hands to his chest, indicating that he was responsible for handing over the manual.

"And I, because of your f...king fault, am the receiver. You asshole!"

"Yes, but if you read it again you'll see that if we keep it between you and I in an intimate circle..."

"Slow down and stop right there. Just a second. Let's suppose that we believe everything they say in this manual that you found in your granny Emma's loom." Javier stated, visibly shaken and trying to put his thoughts in order. "Let's just suppose too that your parents are weavers and washers like the book says. It's obvious that they have kept this secret under lock and key. Right? Because you didn't have a clue about any of this, did you?"

"No."

"Do you swear?"

"I swear."

"And before you gave me this book did you read it?"

"Yes."

"Alright. Ok. Ok. Then it's simpler than it seems. You are the one who can't be still and loves to get us into these jams that later costs us so much to get out of."

"Javi, what do you think will happen to us now that we know what we know?"

Javier replied, "That's if we believe it. In the first place, we have to believe everything that we read is true. But it even got a mention in the Bristol Post!"

"So you don't think there could be anything true about it?" asked Alan.

"Doesn't it say anything about if you find this information by accident? A telephone number or an email address where we could confess and ask for forgiveness?" blurted out Javier, assuming what was waiting for them.

"Negative." answered Alan convincingly.

"Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit. Then that means there is no way out. We are going to die, just like that? Thirteen years old? That's what happens when you stick your nose into place it doesn't belong!"

They looked at each other fearfully. The echo of the words they had read returned to their ears.

DEATH.

It will be guaranteed:

Woven cloth

Cleaning

Drip drying.

Javier looked at Alan carefully and closed the subject simply:

"Damn it all. I'm sure that tonight your parents are going to faithfully follow the instructions in the manual and come and kill us."