My Fool is a Crock
My fool, Vertumnus, is a crock.
I mean, it's not that I don't appreciate Shakespeare. I've taken a lot of literature classes, and been to a lot of plays, and I had a grandfather with a waxed moustache who used to take out his glass eye and his false teeth and howl the King Lear speech about howling at us all the time (but mostly on Christmas.) But Vertumnus' devotion to Shakespeare--or at least the Shakespearean trope of the Wise Fool--is totally retarded.
Basically, Vertumnus tries to model himself on all those fools in Shakespeare who seem to be mere jesters in motley, but are really sages adrift in a sea of idiots. This is how he explained it to me twelve days ago, when he showed up at my apartment wearing one of those snowboarding caps with bells on them and a smelly T-shirt that read "Gandalf for President," and carrying a giant wok and a copy of "Twelfth Night". He marched into my living room, bowed, and said, "Milady, I cannot tell thee false: I am no ordinary fool. From whence I have come the tradition of fools lies not in foolery for foolery's sake, but rather in the foolery that gently doth uncover wisdom. To untutored eyes, I seem but a jester in motely, but ween ye that in sooth I am a sage adrift in a sea of idiots." I got him a beer and told him he could sleep on the convertible sofa in the living room. Then I called my father, King Distaffhead of Yourbutt.com, on the telephone.
I got right to the point. "Daddy, did you send me a fool?"
"Of course I did, pumpkin! Just because you have left the kingdom and have abdicated from the line of succession in order to become a successful advertising executive in one of the largest cities in America's Middle West surely does not mean that you must entirely resist your princessly heritage! What scion of a prosperous observational-humor-and-gay-pornography Internet empire could go through life without a fool to lighten her burdens with laughter?"
"Is he another one of your butt comedians?"
"Heavens no, my angel. I know my daughter has champagne tastes! I met him at the finest Renaissance Faire in the land, and he holds doctorates in English literature, philosophy, and some other thing. No butt comedians for my little kittenhead!"
"Well, thanks, Daddy," I said. I figured I wouldn't mind having someone smart and literate around the apartment, and I had fond memories of my childhood fool, Not-a-Buttplug, who was the only member of Daddy's entourage not to be a buttplug.
The next afternoon I came back from work kind of depressed. This guy was supposed to have called me, and he didn't, and I was kind of sulky, and my fool bounded into the kitchen where I was taking shots of grain alcohol, and was like, "Ah! the lady doth bite off her nose to spite her pretty face! For with great draughts of aqua vitae, the lady's nose groweth as red and unappetizing as a well-chafed rat bairn, thus ensuring that she will never have another lover! Dost the lady wish to punish her cruel lover, as he yields to the flesh of some lowborn strumpet, by her own enforced chastity? Ah, lady, it is I who is called the fool, but methinks perhaps the fool is the lady!"
His syntax was kind of stupid, but his argument made sense, and I stopped drinking. We played Boggle instead, and it was kind of fun, except that he kept saying stuff like, "The lady may be wise enough to discover the words "boat" and "cadaver," but she is not wise enough to discover "boats" and "cadavers"? It is I who is yclept the fool, but methinks perhaps the fool is the lady!"
Vertumnus went on like this for a few days: whenever I said anything he would think of some way to turn the tables on me and say I was really the fool. At dinner, I'd ask him to pass the potatoes, and he would say, "Ah! But does milady want her fool to pass the potatoes? A lady who asks a fool to do a task that should be done by a wise man is a fool indeed! And yet it is I who is yclept the fool!" Or I'd be in the bathroom, brushing my teeth, and he'd come up behind me. "Ah, the lady doth preserve her pearly incisors. And yet, even as she preserveth them, her efforts at preservation are vain, for the insatiable incisors of Time will decay her beauty and rot her pretty teeth. The only course for immortality her beauty can attain is the course of self-replication, investing her beauty in the face of a line of daughters. And yet my lady brusheth her teeth, but she conceiveth not a child! It is I who is yclept the fool, but methinks perhaps the fool is the lady!"
"Don't you have any other tricks?" I asked him once.
"Perhaps milady should ask the question of herself!" he said mysteriously, and didn't even say "yclept." So I guess that was kind of another trick.
But I didn't really start to get irritated with him until a night I actually had a date. I had asked Vertumnus to keep a low profile for the night, and when I came home with Roger, giddy with sake and sexual energy, he was nowhere to be found.
At one point Roger and I were sitting awkwardly on the sofa and, impulsively, I took his hand and said "Oh, Roger, I reeeeally like you," and he leaned in to kiss me, but he drew back in horror when he heard a voice echoing from the bathroom. "My lady sayeth she liketh her lover, but is it not true that, although he may be the man in the room she liketh best, is he not by virtue of being the only man in the room also the man she liketh the least, and what lady kisseth the man she liketh the least? It is I who is yclept the fool, but . . . " Roger punched him out before he could finish, but when I explained Vertumnus was my fool he left in disgust.
"Vertumnus, why do you always have to pull that 'It is I who is yclept the fool' business every time you open your mouth?" I said, as I applied ice to his forehead.
"It's Shakespearean," he said petulantly, "And Shakespeare was a genius. He taught us that humor can open our minds to our own human faults and weaknesses, and make us better people. That's what I'm trying to do for you, milady."
"That's fine sometimes," I said. "But you can't do it all the time. Otherwise it loses its power, Vertumnus. And, Vertumnus," I added, tenderly, "yclept is really a Middle English word. It doesn't come up much in Shakespeare."
I was moved by his tender assurances that he would behave, but the next evening was the straw that broke the camel's back. At two in the morning, my best friend Lisa showed up at my apartment with crippling abdominal pain. I was on the phone with the emergency servicepeople, having just said I thought she needed her appendix out. Just as I was beginning to tell them my address so they could send the ambulance over, there was a click on the line and this unearthly voice was intoning, "Milady is quick to say ill of her friend's appendix, but methinks the lady shouldst examinest her own appendix before she casteth stones upon the appendices of others! For is it not true that an appendix that walketh in the rain is more pure than an appendix that sits and spins? It is I who am yclept the Fool, but methinks perhaps it is the lady who is the fool!"
"Get the hell off the phone, Fool!" I yelled.
There was a silence. I proceeded with my address. "Apartment twenty-thr--"
"Do you not hear, lady? Thou hast told thyself to get off the phone."
"Cut it OUT, Vertumnus!"
"If I shouldst cut, I should make hay, and one maketh hay when the sun shineth, and the tender croppes, and the yonge sonne shineth not tonight, milady. How shouldst I make hay when the sun is hid? It is I who is yclept the Fool, but methinks . . . "
Luckily at that point Lisa, despite her agony, had gathered enough strength to clock Vertumnus with his own wok. But in the time it took to explain to the 9-1-1 operator that we were deadly serious about Lisa's injury, her appendix burst, and although she lived she spent three months in the hospital battling a massive infection.
"Listen, Vertumnus," I said, when I returned to the house. "You can't do this Shakespeare shit anymore. You just can't. You ruin Boggle. You ruined my romance with Roger. You almost killed Lisa. This has got to stop."
"But the Shakespearean Wise Fool is my hero!" he mewled pathetically.
"I know you love the Bard, but why not try reading some other famous humorists?" To give him ideas, I took a bunch of books out of the library: Swift, Chaucer, SJ Perelman, Dave Barry. And for a while, the graduate student in him seemed to have kicked in: He spent all of his days bent over the kitchen table, poring over his volumes. I managed to reignite my love life and regain Lisa's trust. Everything was coming up roses.
Until this morning, when I was awakened by a rush of warm air on my face. I opened my eyes to see Vertumnus' pale, flabby butt hovering over me. With a scream of horror, I pushed him away. "What the fuck is going on?" I demanded.
"I'm being Picaresque!" he said. "Like Chaucer!" A huge, stupid grin was plastered onto his ugly mug.
I'm going to call my father and have him removed this afternoon. I don't give a flying fuck about my heritage. This afternoon I saw him reading a copy of Swift's "A Modest Proposal," and he's supposed to cook dinner tonight. Good grief. What a crock!