Classifying Things

Posted on March 15, 2004 by Jenna

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Jane sits by the sea.

“You’re a thing that splashes and a thing that hides. You’re endless. You’re wet. You’re full of salt. You roar. You crash. You tumble.”

Martin sits down next to her, on a rock. “What do you call it?” he says.

“It’s a tumult, ” she says.

Martin points at a sandpiper, running along the shore. “And that?”

Jane regards the bird. “A fleeting thing. A passing thing. A glimpse and a flash and a pitter-patter thing.”


“It’s a scurry.”

Martin looks up at the sky. “And that?” he says, pointing up.

“It’s a river,” she says, “and the clouds race by like ships; and when the oars splash the water, it falls down like rain. It’s once the same, then different forever. It’s a temporal.”

Martin wraps his arms around his knees. “Why are you sad?” he says.

“I met a woman,” Jane says. “She was a darkness. Offal. Trash. Like a toy that a grown child left behind. She was a sleazing thing. A sinning thing. A greed. A want. A slimy thing. There wasn’t anything in her that was good. I felt so sorry for her.”

“Ah,” Martin says.

“When I meet the bad people, I tell them. I tell them things. Like ‘you have a greatness. You could be beautiful. Cling to your hope.’ Or ‘cling to your love of cooking.’ Or ‘cling to the child in you.’ Or ‘cling to your dislike for pain.’ Or whatever.”

“It doesn’t work,” Martin says.

“It does sometimes.”

Martin thinks about that. “I suppose.”

“But there wasn’t anything I could tell her. She was like rotten fruit.”

Martin sighs. He watches the clouds on the horizon. “You can make soup out of rotten fruit, you know.”

Jane looks at him.

“It’s like stone soup,” he says. “You add things to it, one bit at a time. Potatoes. Wine. Fennel. Onion. Cilantro. Parsnips. Salmon. Klingons. That kind of thing. Then you take the rotten fruit out, and there you go.”

Jane fiddles with a ribbon. “You’re a stringy thing,” she says. “A shiny thing. You’re red and twisty and giving.”

“What do you call it?”

Jane ties it around Martin’s finger. “A promise.”

“An implication?” he offers.

Jane frowns sternly.

“A random philosophical discussion?”


There’s a pause. Martin climbs back up onto the rock. He gives her a wry smile. Jane looks down. She tries not to giggle.

“Fine,” Martin says. “What was her name?”