Jack is Still
About a Slumber Party Game He Encountered
In the Diary of Samuel Pepys
I do need to email Carlotta about this “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board” thing. I think she knows what th—I mean it’s just so much in ke—I mean it’s something that her characters in one of her novels would do.
Guess I’ll just email her right now, while I leave the recorder running, because it doesn’t really matter.
To: Carlotta Rhodes.
Subject: [computer keys clacking] Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board.
“I know… we have discussed…”
[Clacking. Breathing. Clacking. Clacking. Lots of clacking. Breathing and clacking. Breathing. Clacking. Breathing. Clacking. Clacking. Breathing. Clacking. Clacking. Breathing and clacking. Clacking. Clacking. Breathing. Silence.]
[Throat noise. Lip noise.]
Well, well. That email didn’t have much context, but, uh… Carlotta’ll get it, I think. I wonder if there’s a Wikipedia page about “Light as a Feather…”
[Very, very, very long pause.]
All right, I’m just readin’ some crazy frickin’…
Now I’m just readin’ some crazy thread on Twitter. Sorry! Look, this is the way the world is.
What was I gonna do?
Oh! I wanted to see if there’s a Wikipedia page about “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board.”
[Clacking of computer keys.]
[sung]: Doodle, doop do, dooo!
“Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board”!
[Very, very long pause.]
Wait! Well, it’s… here’s the… Samuel Pepys is in the, uh, i—on the Wikipedia page, so I guess I’m not tellin’ anybody anything they don’t know. “The oldest known account of levitation play comes from the diary of Samuel Pepys”!
And now we have the translation, which I, you know, not speaking French, I didn’t know this. Uh, “Here is a dead body, stiff as a stick, cold as marble, light as a spirit.”
Hmmmmmm… that’s better.
No, I don’t know, I, you know, I, maybe I’m just partial as a [short laugh] red-blooded American to “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board.”
[Big lip smack.]
Ah, well. Everybody already knows everything.
That’s the trouble with…
What I got distracted by on Twitter was my, uh, a—my agent… uh… retweeting somebody’s ghost thread. They’re being haunted by a child with a caved-in head, but who isn’t?
I can’t tell if…
Well, you know, I can’t tell if this person’s sincere.
Oh! Speaking of ghosts, my manager did set up a meeting with Dreamworks, so I’m really gonna go in and, uh… pitch my, uh, idea where Casper gets murdered and that’s how he becomes a ghost.
Ah, but, uh, don’t worry, he’s not a little kid in my version, he’s in his twenties. Not that a person in their twenties… you know, that’s also not [short laugh] a good time to be murdered.
Samuel Pepys is worried about the plague. Well, you know, he’s worried about the plague for all the… normal reasons. The plague is scary. You don’t wanna get it. Whatta—what’ll happen?
But also he’s upset because he thinks… [laughter] periwigs are gonna go out of fashion! He’s put a lot of time and thought into his periwig, let me tell ya. And, uh, he’s not so crazy about the idea that now that the plague has swept through, uh, swept through the countryside… what? Now he’s gonna have to give up periwigs? You know? People are gonna be afraid… uh-oh! Everybody’s gonna think… These are Samuel Pepys’s conclusions. “I know what’s gonna happen!” I’m in—I’m inhabiting the character of S—Samuel [stifled laugh] Pepys.
The plague is going to scare people off of periwigs, because people will be suspicious that the barbers are using dead… dead people’s hair. Plague victims. The—the hair of plague victims. To make their periwigs.
And, uh, therefore would not trust in wearing periwigs any longer, for fear of their own safety.
“Now what am I gonna do with my periwig?” This is Samuel Pepys’s main concern.
You know, there’s a war with the Dutch going on. How like Samuel Pepys I am.
Would it be too grandiose and delusional to call myself the Samuel Pepys of Trump’s America? It’s not a compliment!
Samuel Pepys with his silk clothing.
“Oh, I got… Oh, my wife wore her new yellow bonnet today. Everybody said it was nice. Uh…”
You know, meanwhile there’s a war.
And a plague.
What if I told you that I’ve already talked like this for two thousand pages?
I watched Demy’s version of The Pied Piper last night, which has a… plague theme.
So! Plague to plague. Skipping merrily from plague to plague.
I’ll talk about the Pied Piper, the figure of the Pied Piper. Not that it needs to be talked about. I’m very certain that… great thinkers and… philosophers… folklorists and literary critics, all sorts of… deep and brooding intellectuals and… [long pause] aesthetes have… [pause] taken it all apart and put it back together again, more times than can be counted.
But isn’t it an odd story?
Your hero is [laughter]… is a guy who tricks rats into drowning themselves. Which doesn’t seem sporting. But nobody likes rats!
I realize that’s not a… true statement.
There are… there are countless rat aficionados. You probably can’t turn a corner without running into a rat aficionado.
But others find rats loathsome. Including the town fathers who hire the Pied Piper to… lure the rats away.
But then, okay, say you’re on the Pied Piper’s side. You know, “I did a job.”
What’s the moral? Does this story have much of a moral? You know: “If you say…” You know, ewuhhh… buhhh… you know, “Abide by your contracts”? That’s a… that’s not an inspiring moral. Aw, you know, it’s good advice, I’m sure!
But it’s not very spiritual.
Well…! It has a spiritual element.
So… but it’s hard to root for a guy who kidnaps every [laughter] child in town.
This way, please, to the next installment.
Jack Pendarvis has written five books. He won two Emmys for his work on the TV show Adventure Time. During a period of light employment, he spoke into a digital recorder whenever the mood struck him and transcribed the results, accumulating the two thousand pages from which this column has been extracted.