Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Death of Imagination

"Hey, Dad, look at this!" the little girl said while shoving a drawing of an alien riding a unicorn towards him.
"Um, not right now. I'm trying to pay bills online." the father said crossly and brushed it away.
This was only half true. While the online site was open the father was checking on the results of his favorite sports team at the moment. "It figures," he thought, "another loss. Not one thing can go right today. I should have switched teams years ago. Of course, whatever team I switched to would hit a losing streak. Whatever I touch turns to lead."
Lead. A dull, lifeless, heavy, gray (poisonous?) lump. That pretty much summed up his life.
He couldn't even remember the drive to work this morning, much less the drive home. After years of taking the same route he didn't even notice the half hour (hour?) it took to get to and from work. Heck, he was doing good to remember to get the oil changed in the car every 3,000 miles. He would have forgotten that too except for the little sticker on the driver's side windshield. Its numbers hung in the air like a winning lotto ticket that would soon enough match the odometer.
His daughter kissed him and asked him some question about fairies. He didn't really hear. He was struggling to remember what his wife asked him to do a few minutes ago before he got online. "Take out the trash? ...close the garage door?"
"Dad! I said, 'What are you imagining?'" repeated the little girl. 
"Oh, Sweetie. Daddy doesn't have an imagination. He has to worry about other things." 
"Well," said the little girl, "it looked like you were thinking really hard so I thought you were imagine-ating."

The father tried hard to imagine something for his little girl. All he could think of was how one year had slipped into another with so little change that they all became indistinguishable. No, that's not true. There was once something exciting long ago, like a sandcastle on a sunny day. But now it seems time had carried it away slowly, slowly with the tide.

"A see a statue..." the father started to say out loud. He indeed did see a statue made of stone. It looked a lot like him--still, lifeless, with a stupid expression on its face, like squinting at a screen. The statue did not move. It did not think. It was hard to say even how old the statue was. A little girl came up to it smiling. She clambered up to its lap and gave the hard cheek a kiss. The statue moved slightly and the eyes moistened. Its heavy arms became warm and soft and moved to hug the little girl. She laughed and now the hands tickled her until she squealed. The statue was alive again. 
"What happened to me?" thought the statue. "There was a day when a stick in the yard became a gun, a sword, a snake--no a sword. A sword to slay Medusa."

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