Saturday, February 4, 2012

Right in the Knishkies

February is signing calendars in a bookstore, writing February with a flourish across the replica of a 1920s travel poster. "I pictured you differently," I say to the stout, elderly woman behind the table. "I change my appearance from day to day," she explains. "Today I am Monrovia Gates, the Jewish landlady with bunions the size of Idaho potato-toes. Oy!" she protests. "Right in the knishkies." "First of all," I tell her, "There's no such thing. It's either knishes or kishkies. And if you're going to attempt a Jewish accent, you can't say kuh-nish or kuh-vell or kuh-vetch. There's got to be no daylight whatsoever between the k and the next consonant. Knish. Kvell. Kvetch. And finally, how can you be both February and Monrovia whatever?" But she's already changed. Now she's a tall pallid neurasthenic Chinese gentleman who is an expert in marionettes who perform martial arts. He replies to every question, "Mind your own business," with a wink and a smile, as if he were imparting a humorous piece of wisdom. I believe this shape-shifter to be no February at all, but an impostor. However, the line is long, the people seem grateful, even starstruck to meet a month. They pose in front of their cell phone cameras held at arm's length, the other arm embracing "February" in presumptuous famiiarity. They think they know him/her it, don't seem fazed by the phases. Now he's a schoolboy with plastic tortoise-shell glasses, shifting in the chair like he's got to go, and go he does, turns into a bird...a...saur. A birdosaur. This it explains two-dimensionally from the calendar page for February/Fevrier: not a pterodactyl or an archaeopteryx but a silly-looking dinosaur with a fake beak. And in the picture, animated, it attempts to fly, flapping its muscular arms and by gum, gaining altitude—you can see the ground dropping away beneath it, rivers, forests, roads, an ever-diminishing Google Earth that is finally signed February by a large tin-can robot smoking a thin cheroot that may or not be a peruche of licorice. And I'm starting to miss Monrovia Gates, fake Jewish accent notwithstanding. "I missed you too, dollink!" she says, smiling broadly.

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