Electricity

“Señor.”
 
The old man caught the corner of my eye as I left the sidewalk behind him to cross the narrow street.
 
“Señor,” he repeated, a little louder this time.  I stopped in the middle of the quiet lane and turned toward him.
 
“Señor, do you speak Spanish?”  The old man’s voice was not as fragile as it first appeared.  The slight Hispanic lilt gave his mid-range tenor an air of formality that most Americans find, frankly, a bit uncomfortable.
 
I’d noticed him from about a hundred feet or so, his pale straw fedora and open-side poncho hard to miss in the tranquil, upstate surroundings of the hospital grounds.  He walked with a cane, the kind with a T-shaped bone handle and a dark hardwood shaft.  It was old – he’d had it for quite a while.  As I’d gained on him, a thought sprang from the ether: This is how you’ll look.  This could be – will be – you, someday.  Not too far off, either.
 
He was in no hurry, and I’d come nearly abreast of him when I’d detoured to cross the street on my way to a lunch date.  He turned fully toward me now as I stood in the road, his long hair and beard corkscrewing around his face, a loose white frame.  The serious look told me he was a man who believed in what he was about to say.
 
“No, I do not,” I told him evenly.  I knew there was more.
 
“I am over one hundred years old,” he began, and counted on his five fingers as he held up a knotty, weathered hand.  “Five months ago.  January.  I celebrated my one hundredth birthday in January.”
 
He watched me as I smiled.  “That’s wonderful,” I told him, not wanting to seem to be uninterested in his longevity accomplishments.  In truth, it surprised me – he looked maybe late seventies, early eighties to me.  What do I know?
 
“Forty doctors,” he continued.  “I worked at the hospital for fifty years, with forty doctors.  I am left.  Not one of them.  Only me.  One hundred years old.  And I say that what you are doing,” he paused for effect, “is wrong.  It is bad for you.”
 
I was nonplussed.  “What?”
 
“There is electricity,” he said, not to be interrupted.  “Everywhere.  Our bodies run on electricity.  The ground.  The air.  Everywhere.  You disrupt the flow, doing what you do.”
 
“I’m confused,” and, genuinely, I was.  Electricity?
 
“How old are you?” he asked.
 
“Forty-one,” I replied, and smiled again.  People always told me I looked young for my age.  People probably told him that, too.  He grunted.
 
“This Viagra.  This sex drug.  Grown men, thirties, forty year old.  They need this Viagra.  They can’t get the erection no more.  Why?”  He was way past me now, but I was fascinated.  How is he going to tie all this back together?
 
“Because they do like you.  They interrupt the electricity.  It flows up the left side of your body.  Swirls around.  Down the right side.  It comes from the ground.  Your body needs it.  You must not do that anymore,” he finished, nodding solemnly.
 
“Do what?  What am I doing?”
 
“This!” he shouted as he thrust his hands into the pockets at the front of his pants. The old man must have seen the confusion written in my expression, because he offered more.
 
“This,” he said more calmly as he shook his hands in the pockets of his loose linen pants, “interrupts the flow.  The electricity?  Nowhere to go.  It is bad for you.  The electricity needs to reach out.”  He removed his hands from his pockets.
 
“You need to be grounded.  We all need to be grounded.”
 
Until that moment, I hadn’t realized I’d even had my hands in my pockets.  I looked at his brown eyes.  They seemed part of the younger look of the man, even buried as they were among the wrinkles of a sun-weathered face.  He wasn’t kidding. I took the hands out of my pockets.  The man smiled.
 
“I am a Mayan Indian,” he said.  “My people know about these things.  We have known about the electricity for hundreds of years.  We are strong people.  The electricity makes us strong.  And so I outlive all the doctors.  All of them.  They walked like you do, hands in their pants.  They stopped the flow. It is the best thing you can do.  Let the electricity flow.  In the winter, do you know what I do?  I wear gloves.  It’s OK.  But I never put my hand in my pocket unless I need to get something out.  In, out.  That’s OK.  What you were doing,” he pointed a crooked finger at my hips, “is not.”
 
“Thank you,” I said.  “I didn’t know such a thing was bad for me.  I will consider your advice.”
 
“You keep your hands free.  The electricity will swirl,” he demonstrated as he moved his hand in circles around his chest, “And you have no problems like those Viagra men.  You get the erection.”
 
He turned to continue his walk, then he turned back.
 
“Remember,” he said, “Remember the electricity.  You have a good day.”
 
He walked away at his snail’s pace down the sidewalk as I finished crossing the road, my own gait slower, my gaze more thoughtful.  I could smell the blossoms of an apple tree as I passed it, their white petals in bloom for just these few days.  Maybe he was mad - this was a psychiatric hospital, after all.  He might have just been another patient.
 
Or maybe he was a one hundred year old Mayan.  My hands swung freely as I headed for lunch.
 
 
© Fred Stelling 2003
 
Originally published in Prima Materia Volume 2, 2003.

“Señor.”
 
The old man caught the corner of my eye as I left the sidewalk behind him to cross the narrow street.
 
“Señor,” he repeated, a little louder this time.  I stopped in the middle of the quiet lane and turned toward him.
 
“Señor, do you speak Spanish?”  The old man’s voice was not as fragile as it first appeared.  The slight Hispanic lilt gave his mid-range tenor an air of formality that most Americans find, frankly, a bit uncomfortable.
 
I’d noticed him from about a hundred feet or so, his pale straw fedora and open-side poncho hard to miss in the tranquil, upstate surroundings of the hospital grounds.  He walked with a cane, the kind with a T-shaped bone handle and a dark hardwood shaft.  It was old – he’d had it for quite a while.  As I’d gained on him, a thought sprang from the ether: This is how you’ll look.  This could be – will be – you, someday.  Not too far off, either.
 
He was in no hurry, and I’d come nearly abreast of him when I’d detoured to cross the street on my way to a lunch date.  He turned fully toward me now as I stood in the road, his long hair and beard corkscrewing around his face, a loose white frame.  The serious look told me he was a man who believed in what he was about to say.
 
“No, I do not,” I told him evenly.  I knew there was more.
 
“I am over one hundred years old,” he began, and counted on his five fingers as he held up a knotty, weathered hand.  “Five months ago.  January.  I celebrated my one hundredth birthday in January.”
 
He watched me as I smiled.  “That’s wonderful,” I told him, not wanting to seem to be uninterested in his longevity accomplishments.  In truth, it surprised me – he looked maybe late seventies, early eighties to me.  What do I know?
 
“Forty doctors,” he continued.  “I worked at the hospital for fifty years, with forty doctors.  I am left.  Not one of them.  Only me.  One hundred years old.  And I say that what you are doing,” he paused for effect, “is wrong.  It is bad for you.”
 
I was nonplussed.  “What?”
 
“There is electricity,” he said, not to be interrupted.  “Everywhere.  Our bodies run on electricity.  The ground.  The air.  Everywhere.  You disrupt the flow, doing what you do.”
 
“I’m confused,” and, genuinely, I was.  Electricity?
 
“How old are you?” he asked.
 
“Forty-one,” I replied, and smiled again.  People always told me I looked young for my age.  People probably told him that, too.  He grunted.
 
“This Viagra.  This sex drug.  Grown men, thirties, forty year old.  They need this Viagra.  They can’t get the erection no more.  Why?”  He was way past me now, but I was fascinated.  How is he going to tie all this back together?
 
“Because they do like you.  They interrupt the electricity.  It flows up the left side of your body.  Swirls around.  Down the right side.  It comes from the ground.  Your body needs it.  You must not do that anymore,” he finished, nodding solemnly.
 
“Do what?  What am I doing?”
 
“This!” he shouted as he thrust his hands into the pockets at the front of his pants. The old man must have seen the confusion written in my expression, because he offered more.
 
“This,” he said more calmly as he shook his hands in the pockets of his loose linen pants, “interrupts the flow.  The electricity?  Nowhere to go.  It is bad for you.  The electricity needs to reach out.”  He removed his hands from his pockets.
 
“You need to be grounded.  We all need to be grounded.”
 
Until that moment, I hadn’t realized I’d even had my hands in my pockets.  I looked at his brown eyes.  They seemed part of the younger look of the man, even buried as they were among the wrinkles of a sun-weathered face.  He wasn’t kidding. I took the hands out of my pockets.  The man smiled.
 
“I am a Mayan Indian,” he said.  “My people know about these things.  We have known about the electricity for hundreds of years.  We are strong people.  The electricity makes us strong.  And so I outlive all the doctors.  All of them.  They walked like you do, hands in their pants.  They stopped the flow. It is the best thing you can do.  Let the electricity flow.  In the winter, do you know what I do?  I wear gloves.  It’s OK.  But I never put my hand in my pocket unless I need to get something out.  In, out.  That’s OK.  What you were doing,” he pointed a crooked finger at my hips, “is not.”
 
“Thank you,” I said.  “I didn’t know such a thing was bad for me.  I will consider your advice.”
 
“You keep your hands free.  The electricity will swirl,” he demonstrated as he moved his hand in circles around his chest, “And you have no problems like those Viagra men.  You get the erection.”
 
He turned to continue his walk, then he turned back.
 
“Remember,” he said, “Remember the electricity.  You have a good day.”
 
He walked away at his snail’s pace down the sidewalk as I finished crossing the road, my own gait slower, my gaze more thoughtful.  I could smell the blossoms of an apple tree as I passed it, their white petals in bloom for just these few days.  Maybe he was mad - this was a psychiatric hospital, after all.  He might have just been another patient.
 
Or maybe he was a one hundred year old Mayan.  My hands swung freely as I headed for lunch.
 
 
© Fred Stelling 2003
 
Originally published in Prima Materia Volume 2, 2003.

POST RECITAL

Talk Icon

TALK

BR: Fred, thanks for joining Tom and me in the studio today.
 
FS: My pleasure Brent. It's really, really fun being here. I'm having a great time.
 
BR: Great. Well we have a few questions for you....
 
TN: Hang on a minute. Hang on. There's some kind of hum I'm hearing. Do you hear it?
 
BR: Not really, but your ears are much better than mine.
 
TN: Hmm… I’m trying this noise filter. It doesn’t seem to make any difference. It’s low. I don't know - maybe a ground hum or …. hang on. All right. Let's just go with it and I'll try to fix it later.
 
BR: Okay then, on we go… Fred, I know you have a job that keeps you busy, traveling many places. How do you find time to write?
 
FS: You know, I've thought about that question. Actually you'd be amazed at the amount of energy that you get - going from place to place - all the different people, all the different places. It actually helps. It puts me in a place, in my mind, where all of that juice just kind of charges up the story ideas. So, it's a good gig.
 
BR: Wow. Well that writing thing - it’s always a challenge for me.....
 
TN: Hang on. Hang on a minute guys. There's just a little problem here. Aside from the tech. problems, I realized I left the window open in here and I'm getting a car.
 
BR: I heard that car.
 
TN: Hold on, hold on....Maybe we'll use that.
 
BR: Yeah.
 
FS: Was it an electric car?
 
BR: Yeah right.
 
TN: Okay. Try that.
 
BR: Well yeah. Finding time for writing is always a challenge for me. My two novels languish. Do you have any works in progress?
 
FS: Yeah, I'm doing some research right now on the rivalry between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison and I'm thinking I could craft that into a story that might even involve a wrestling match to decide the kind of AC/DC question.
 
BR: That sounds great. Well okay, now about this story....
 
TN: Sorry. Sorry guys. I'm getting this weird sound and I'm looking at the waveforms and seeing some jagged lines on the oscilloscope here, so.... I don't know. It's got to be a ground loop. It's a pain in the arse. Anyway, I don't know what to say.
 
BR: Can we keep recording?
 
TN: Yeah okay. Let's just try. Let's go on.
 
BR: Okay. Well Fred, what was your inspiration for the story? Does it have any basis in fact?
 
FS: Hmm. I think that depends on how you relate fact to fiction. I got stories when I was a kid. My mother used to tell me that when I was a kid I used to stick my fingers in sockets. I don't know if that's a direct relationship or not, but it's there and maybe it was a spark for the story. I actually did meet a guy like this, though, once. So that was real.
 
BR: Well I was a little disingenuous in asking if it has any basis in fact, because actually I think so-called “fact” is a highly suspect concept. It’s all just interpretation and consensus. Even repeatable scientific experiments are contaminated more than we admit by confirmation bias and the observer-expectancy effect. Not to mention the vast amount of information that we don’t know we don’t know, so theories and the resultant “facts” are based on an incredibly limited foundation: human perception. What do you think?
 
FS: Well I'm not sure I agree. I would say ….Oh!
 
(begins to speak, then a loud electric arc/crackle/buzz sound is heard)
 
TN: Ah shit! Shit!
 
BR: What the hell!
 
TN: Ah god, I hope that didn’t fry the studio. Hang on a minute, hang on, hang on. Um... everything seems all right.
 
FS: Wow. Sorry about that.
 
TN: Well it's not your fault.
 
FS: Well…
 
TN: Or is it?
 
FS: Um, sometimes this happens when I get a little excited.  You know - electricity.
 
BR: No way. You mean, like in the story?
 
FS: Well yeah. The old guy was right. I haven’t had my hands in my pockets in fifteen years.
 
BR: You’re like a walking power plant.
 
FS: Yeah, and an honorary Mayan shaman. And no Viagra needed.
 
TN: You’re dangerous, that's what you are. I think we'd better call this off. I'd like to keep using the studio. Okay?
 
FS: Damn. All right, I guess so. Thanks, guys.
 
TN: Well thanks anyway. And get the fuck out of here.

BR: Fred, thanks for joining Tom and me in the studio today.
 
FS: My pleasure Brent. It's really, really fun being here. I'm having a great time.
 
BR: Great. Well we have a few questions for you....
 
TN: Hang on a minute. Hang on. There's some kind of hum I'm hearing. Do you hear it?
 
BR: Not really, but your ears are much better than mine.
 
TN: Hmm… I’m trying this noise filter. It doesn’t seem to make any difference. It’s low. I don't know - maybe a ground hum or …. hang on. All right. Let's just go with it and I'll try to fix it later.
 
BR: Okay then, on we go… Fred, I know you have a job that keeps you busy, traveling many places. How do you find time to write?
 
FS: You know, I've thought about that question. Actually you'd be amazed at the amount of energy that you get - going from place to place - all the different people, all the different places. It actually helps. It puts me in a place, in my mind, where all of that juice just kind of charges up the story ideas. So, it's a good gig.
 
BR: Wow. Well that writing thing - it’s always a challenge for me.....
 
TN: Hang on. Hang on a minute guys. There's just a little problem here. Aside from the tech. problems, I realized I left the window open in here and I'm getting a car.
 
BR: I heard that car.
 
TN: Hold on, hold on....Maybe we'll use that.
 
BR: Yeah.
 
FS: Was it an electric car?
 
BR: Yeah right.
 
TN: Okay. Try that.
 
BR: Well yeah. Finding time for writing is always a challenge for me. My two novels languish. Do you have any works in progress?
 
FS: Yeah, I'm doing some research right now on the rivalry between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison and I'm thinking I could craft that into a story that might even involve a wrestling match to decide the kind of AC/DC question.
 
BR: That sounds great. Well okay, now about this story....
 
TN: Sorry. Sorry guys. I'm getting this weird sound and I'm looking at the waveforms and seeing some jagged lines on the oscilloscope here, so.... I don't know. It's got to be a ground loop. It's a pain in the arse. Anyway, I don't know what to say.
 
BR: Can we keep recording?
 
TN: Yeah okay. Let's just try. Let's go on.
 
BR: Okay. Well Fred, what was your inspiration for the story? Does it have any basis in fact?
 
FS: Hmm. I think that depends on how you relate fact to fiction. I got stories when I was a kid. My mother used to tell me that when I was a kid I used to stick my fingers in sockets. I don't know if that's a direct relationship or not, but it's there and maybe it was a spark for the story. I actually did meet a guy like this, though, once. So that was real.
 
BR: Well I was a little disingenuous in asking if it has any basis in fact, because actually I think so-called “fact” is a highly suspect concept. It’s all just interpretation and consensus. Even repeatable scientific experiments are contaminated more than we admit by confirmation bias and the observer-expectancy effect. Not to mention the vast amount of information that we don’t know we don’t know, so theories and the resultant “facts” are based on an incredibly limited foundation: human perception. What do you think?
 
FS: Well I'm not sure I agree. I would say ….Oh!
 
(begins to speak, then a loud electric arc/crackle/buzz sound is heard)
 
TN: Ah shit! Shit!
 
BR: What the hell!
 
TN: Ah god, I hope that didn’t fry the studio. Hang on a minute, hang on, hang on. Um... everything seems all right.
 
FS: Wow. Sorry about that.
 
TN: Well it's not your fault.
 
FS: Well…
 
TN: Or is it?
 
FS: Um, sometimes this happens when I get a little excited.  You know - electricity.
 
BR: No way. You mean, like in the story?
 
FS: Well yeah. The old guy was right. I haven’t had my hands in my pockets in fifteen years.
 
BR: You’re like a walking power plant.
 
FS: Yeah, and an honorary Mayan shaman. And no Viagra needed.
 
TN: You’re dangerous, that's what you are. I think we'd better call this off. I'd like to keep using the studio. Okay?
 
FS: Damn. All right, I guess so. Thanks, guys.
 
TN: Well thanks anyway. And get the fuck out of here.

 

Music on this episode:

Mayan Fire Flute by Xavier Quijas Yxayotl

License CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Hot Salsa Trip by Arsonist

License CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

THE STRANGE RECITAL

Episode 17071

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