What Jerry Had to Say About the Meaning of Life

a-

My boss walks into the teacher’s room.

“Essay day!” she calls. All the teachers, myself included, groan. She puts a fat stack of hot paper on the communal desk. My first class is a pile of pimples, pit-hair and angst.

Middle school is the worst, I think, taking a mirror from the girl in the front row as I walk in. I pull out the attendance sheet, I look up. The same girl has a new mirror out, bigger, white. I stare at her, mouth open. She rolls her eyes and stuffs it in her bag.

I look around at the sleepy mess of stressed out, pale teenagers. There are no windows.

“Essay day!” I cry, holding up a stack of papers. All the students groan. I look down at the header of the essay. I sigh.

“What gives your life meaning?” I whisper it to myself, groan, and repeat it to the class. They don’t respond, so, I hand the stack to a boy in the front row. He hands them out.

For the next ten minutes I stand at the front of the class, watching, sweating, occasionally itching. Finally, I can’t take it, I walk around.

Each paper I pass I see the same things:

Family, friends, my phone, family, friends, my phone…

One of the students actually managed to misspell phone. I stop and point at it. He looks up at me.

“Ph-oh-ne,” I mouth. He frowns. I shake my head and move on. In the back, I see Jerry. He is smaller than the rest. No hair above his lip, no pimples. He has big old glasses and a blank stare. His pencil is down. I cross my arms.

“Finished, Jerry?”

I can feel the other students turn, eager to watch me reprimand Jerry. Jerry just nods. He turns the paper. I pick it up. There is one sentence written. His handwriting is awful. I look closer.

“Life is meaningless because you can’t fold a piece of paper more than eighth times.”

I read it again. I look back at the class. They quickly turn back to their work. I place Jerry’s essay back on his desk. I take out my pen. He watches me, emotionless. At the top of the page I write–big and red.

A-

He frowns at it. He looks up at me. I shrug.

“Eight, not eighth,” I remind him.

Apollo and the Laurel Tree

apollo

A clearing. A tree. A river. It was night. Apollo sat, head in hands.

“Now that the chase has ended what am I to do now?” Apollo called to the night air.

The laurel tree swayed and sighed.

Eros perched himself in the tree above Apollo’s head, laughing.

Apollo, being a god, knew that it was no use defying nature. So, he took the Laurel tree as his crest and went back out into the world, leaving his heart behind.

Each century, Apollo returned, stood under the tree and sang all the love songs sung in the past hundred years. Throughout, the laurel tree would sway, and sigh, and sometimes dance. Always, though, she remained unmoved.

In one year, while singing a ballad lost to us, a man walked along the riverbank. He was young. He stopped a while and watched Apollo sing. When the song ended, the man clapped.

“What for art thou singing to this laurel?” The man asked.

Apollo touched the tree and sighed.

“My love was turned from me, into a tree.”

The man nodded, thoughtful. He spoke thus, “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.”

Apollo turned and narrowed his eyes at the man.

“What is this about Cupid, that flagitious little harpy. Has he sent you to mock me?”

“I–Uh,” the man managed, startled.

Apollo drew his sword and chased the man from the forest.

Apollo never met another soul in that forest until the day he came to find the Laurel tree gone. At first elated, thinking his love had been freed, he soon fell into distress. Eros sat upon a stump in the spot where the laurel tree had been.

Eros, sighed.

“Poor thing,” he sung. Then he winked, and vanished. Apollo, furious, began to search the forest. He knew every wrinkle of the Laurel tree and found her, slain, sitting in a logging mill.

And there Apollo wept, before smashing the mill to bits with his bare hands. He then took the laurel tree on his back and carried her to a bookmaker where she was made into a thousand blank pages.

In these pages Apollo wrote all the songs he knew, until they were wet and heavy with ink.

These pages he took to the river and laid them one by one into the water, singing as he did.