the heft and the edge                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     10/6/2020








    He decided to give me a little boost. He didn't want me slacking when I should be out and about looking for his cure. He wanted me back in the library, back in the chair.  He probably thought I'd be more fired up if he reminded me of Sarah and everything I'd lost. His message was that my Ariadne was pining for me, desperate for me to kill the beast and escape the Labyrinth.  Not even I was so dense as to miss his joke.

    My extra sense popped up and flagged a room I was about to pass.  I was at the time searching for the rabbit - he’d mysteriously disappeared a few nights past.  My situation was not too desperate. I knew enough by now to eke out an existence.  I don't suppose I needed the rabbit but to tell the truth I missed him. I’m not  good at being alone. It added an edge to the search. You see if I couldn't find Cahill, then I was going to have to find the library.  Hal was engineering again.

    But a room in use was not to be missed.  I stepped in cautiously and nearly jumped out of my skin as the spade and rake and brush clattered to the floor of the potting shed. I was forever knocking them over though  Sarah always managed to slide in and out without ever disturbing them. I picked them up, propped them in the corner.  Something clingy touched my face and I shuddered.  It was a cobweb.  I am not fond of spiders. The huge beast that occupied the centre of the web scuttled off as I clawed the threads out of my hair. Just above the door was a cluttered shelf, full of nooks, full of crannies and the spider made tracks into the darkness of it.  And there it was: a large ball of green garden twine. Careless of the spider's current location I reached up and claimed the prize as my own. 

    “What a weapon it could be!” I cried.  I do get carried away sometimes.

    Then I thought: but this is Sarah's potting shed! Through the window I recognized the row of cloches she'd put at the bottom of the garden: at the bottom of our garden!  I charged back through the door so fast a whole stack of garden tools and plant pots hit the deck and... and there I was, back in the corridor again. The corridor again. The corridor!  AGAIN!

    It was summer in that garden, late afternoon. Sarah would be there: deckchair, book,  glass of chilled Soave, sunshade.

    I should have smashed through the window to get to her, but you can’t help it, can you:  so conditioned to use fucking  doors. For God’s sake! The door had closed behind me. I grabbed at the handle but it was too late. He’d moved it, all of it: the shed, the garden, Sarah. The bastard wouldn't even let me see her. Not even for a minute. God but I hate him.

    I wandered around the empty room for a little while. Until I stopped crying.

    So anyway, I had this ball of twine still.  When I'd recovered, some hours later, I picked myself up, dusted myself down and prepared to start all over again. Rabbit-less, locating the library wasn’t an easy task, though I was better at it now than I had been at first. Mapping out the Ministry wouldn’t be possible but at least now I had a tool. Sarah's twine would help me.

    I had a cheerful (read manic) hour paying it out, letting it lie, green on grey.  I even managed a song as I marched:

    Ball of yarn,
    Ball of yarn,
    She was winding up her little ball of yarn,
    And the blackbird and the thrush
    They sang out of every bush:
    Keep your hand upon your little ball of yarn.

    Oh no kind sir said she
    You're a stranger unto me
    And la la, la la la any harm,
    I will sit here in the shade
    And I'll live my life a maid
    With my hand upon my little ball of yarn.


    I wasn't sure of the words so I made them up or if I couldn't think of a rhyme lah-lahd instead. I hadn’t been to a folk club for years. I racked my brains for other old songs. I was singing Wild Mountain Thyme when the string ran out. And I  still hadn’t found the library. Irritated but not defeated I drew-in the line, grateful that the highly polished floor offered little friction, wound it into a ball, and started again. It was on the third unraveling that I reached the library door and, with a great sense of achievement, tied the end of the string to the handle.

    My plan was simple: I’d leave the line where it was so that whenever I ran across it I’d only have to follow in one direction or the other and voila!  A small victory but a victory nonetheless. Worrying only in the sense that it was Hal's joke that provided the opportunity.

    His intention, I'm sure, was to remind me of the tale of Theseus and the Minotaur. If you remember, the Athenian king got himself thrown into the Labyrinth on Knossos, home to that horrible, virgin eating, half man - half bull thing.  Naturally it was Theseus' task to kill the Minotaur. And he was helped in this task by the lovely virgin (yes, next in line to be eat) Ariadne.  All she did, as far as I remember, was give him a ball of twine to help him escape the maze when he'd done the deed.

    Here Sarah was my Ariadne and I was Theseus. But who was the Daedalus, maker of this particular labyrinth?  And what Minotaur must I face before I can be free of it?  I'll leave the answers to you.

    So there you are: you've had 'Frankenstein: A Modern Prometheus', how about 'The Ministry Rat: A Modern Theseus'?

    It is a touch laughable, I know, for me to make out that I'm anything like Theseus.  He was a HERO.  Frightened of nothing, not the Persians at Marathon, nor the hordes of the underworld after the abduction of Persephone, not the Centaurs and certainly not the Minotaur.

    Oh, I've been there. I've had adventure till I'm sick of it, been to all sorts of dangerous places, but the fact is, being there does not make you a hero. Neither does the fact that I’ve a Minotaur to face: everyone has sooner or later. Things have changed anyway. Heroes used to believe in themselves. It was part of the job. Nowadays our heroes are concerned individuals who always  want to know what's right and what's wrong. You wouldn't catch Theseus bothering about that; you wouldn't catch him trying to offer the Minotaur psychiatric help instead of a cold blade. You wouldn't find him worried that euthanasia, even in the case of severe deformity, was morally indefensible. Our heroes suffer from angst: Vietnam, Korea, Cambodia has destroyed the old fashioned notion of hero.  Killing people, killing monsters even, is no longer the noble act it once was. The Ministry Rat, I suppose, is the typical Modern Theseus. He’s someone who things just happen to; his heroism consists in coping with the trauma, courage in the face of unwanted adversity. While the heroes of the past actually sought out dire deeds and glory...

    Rats, rats, rats! 

    Just when you think you're onto a good line. Let's be honest, my theory doesn’t hold water. What about good old Odysseus? I certainly have something in common with him alright: chap making his way home after some business or other and what happens?  Fate comes out and grabs him by the balls, that's what. The Gods in their wisdom toss him from one bloody awful situation to the next, to the next - just for a laugh, I suppose - and all he wants is house and home and his faithful Penelope.

    So, what about my motives? Depends on whether you think I was kidnapped or seduced? Seduction works on desire: where there is no desire one cannot be seduced. Maybe I was actually looking for adventure, something to save me from my humdrum life? 

    Was I  Theseus or Odysseus?