Jack D. Harvey, Mark the Dwarf
Mark the Dwarf
Publisher: Publish Green
Date: December 18, 2015
Length: 328 pages
Retailers: Amazon; Barnes & Noble
When Mark the dwarf goes bowling, he ends up on an enormous platform high up in the middle of nowhere. He has an encounter with some clowns from outer space, who propose a mission and a Faustian bargain for Mark for the purposes of an exchange of evil for good. With some misgivings, Mark accepts.
Mark the Dwarf is the odyssey of a dwarf through time, metamorphosis and space. After many adventures on and off the landscape of the everyday world, along with bizarre encounters with sly and dangerous aliens, Mark, refined and reborn in the crucible of his odyssey, returns to his place in the everyday world, stronger and looming larger in the terrain of his life.
The chapter below relates metamorphosed and fused Mark-in-Lance’s battle with the Adversary and Mark’s redemption, his final transformation and his rebirth, as well as a short description of his origin and his baptism.
Fall of the Dragon
Fruit of My Womb
Morning. Over the trees, the secure light of Apollo briskly fell on the fields and woods. Time to be up and about. Lance got up and yawned, looking around. The canoe was gone. By the crushed grass trail, he could see that it had been dragged off and the trail went out of sight and disappeared on the hard champaign.
“Ach, shank’s mare from here, and I’ll be in Scotland afore ye,” said Lance cheerfully and off he went, walking through the woods and eventually emerging on a dirt road, with cultivated fields stretching off in the distance on both sides. The crops in the fields looked like the same crops he saw yesterday, coming out of the lock; wheat or some other kind of grain crop. Straight ahead in the distance, he could see a hill standing up from the fields. As it seemed to be the only outstanding landmark, he made for it. Hours passed and he walked and sweated. The hill was closer now, and Lance could see what looked like a tower. Lance kept walking. Toward late afternoon, he reckoned he was less than a quarter of a mile from the hill and, yes, there was a castle on one side. Not a big castle and not a very well-maintained castle, but definitely a castle. The entranceway was strewn with broken carrots and other vegetable refuse. When Lance was twenty yards or so from the door, it opened with a terrible bang and a smallish dragon emerged. Very dark, maybe ten or twelve feet tall, short, stubby, dilapidated tail, runny snout, dirty claws and a harried look around its rheumy evil brows.
“You finally got here!” the dragon began. Powerful nasal tones. He sounded very like George Jessel in Dolby stereo. “OK, you son of a bitch and the bitch in there with you and hidden Mark, this time it’s going to be different! I’m going to raze your facade off the face of the earth! I’m going to Pearl your harbor to smithereens! I’m going to blast your collective carcass into deep space! Delete your existence! Waterloo your blood and lights! Quicklime your bones! Rip up your upholstery!”
The dragon was hopping up and down in excitement. “I don’t know what shit you pulled in Vegas or how you kicked me out on the way here, but now you’re on my turf! This is my clubhouse and my game. I’m the old dragon, Dracula, the Archfiend! The captain of midnight, the king of the witching hour! I’ll showbiz you two amateurs! You want to play girl’s rules or boy’s rules? You have a choice,” he added conversationally.
Lance wearily told the dragon, for he recognized him for who he was immediately, that he had walked a weary way and that anyway, fighting was out of style. They had fought already and Lance had won.
“But you didn’t win! You didn’t win!” shouted the dragon. “I got away! Here I am, reduced in caliber, but still strong enough to salt you away for good. You and that unholy ghost and that fruit-loving bitch from the garden in there with you. Ah, paradise! I was littler then, a mere serpent, but considered a good talker. And here we are, ready to have at it again. Say, it really brings back the memories.” Nostalgically and prosaically, the dragon began to outline the terms of what was apparently a non-standard confrontation. “OK. Forget that Saint George shit, no swords. It’s dangerous and old-fashioned. Look, I’ll tell you what I’ll do. No-holds-barred wrestling and I won’t use the barbecue.” The dragon, after some hacking and coughing, managed to send a very small blast of pallid blue flame out of his mouth. “That’s just a sample. If I want to, I can make the Human Torch look like an incense stick. I got the power.”
The dragon moved his tiny front paws back and forth, like a boxer working the light bag. “You in a world of shit in more ways than one, white boy. You ain’t nobody’s fair-haired boy in this neighborhood.”
“Listen,” said Lance equably, “I don’t want to fight.”
“Coward! Coward! Fraidy cat!” The dragon was hopping up and down again. “Mark, you spirit of doom, you ghost in the clockwork, I know you’re still in there, somehow, someplace, still running around. After all, who’s Lance? It’s Mark, after all, a dwarf in sheep’s clothing. I figured a measly dwarf and that’s what you are, that’s all you are, would chicken out. All you little people are chickenshit cowards. Trading on your accidental bad luck. Limping and lurching through life with a free ticket to sympathy. Freaks. Buncha god damn faggots, the men. Women hairier and uglier than monkeys. Once a dwarf, always a dwarf, never a Lance again. They can’t give or take that away from you.”
The dragon whistled and walked around in a mincing, fake-limping gait, designed to convey contempt and loathing for Mark and little people in general.
Lance was pissed. Mark or the ghost of Mark was back? Or had Mark never left? A feint of the dragon to throw him off guard? He felt nothing of Mark. But for himself, for his roommate, absent or not, time to take up the cudgels. Enough was enough. Besides, there was a lady present. He felt the blood begin to pound in his ears and his nipples became hard as nails. “OK, bullshitter, I’ll tell you something. I used to know a gang of midgets, worked for the circus, used to come through my hometown every once. These midgets were the roughest, toughest little bastards you ever saw. One of ‘em had a hobby, a vocation you might call it. He beat up Marines. All the time. Faggots? When these guys came to town, the waitresses would wear jockstraps with aluminum cups under their panties, so they wouldn’t get a fistful of fingers up their cooters. Jojo the dwarf had a dong so big he used to beep the horn of his car with it. While he was driving. You want to fight? Let’s do it. Reptiles don’t have any staying power, anyway. Cold blood. Stupid shits, too.”
The dragon seemed somewhat taken aback. “Now wait. This is a classic representative conflict between the forces of good and evil. Jesus Christ, you knew it was on the way from way back when; I sent you and Mark, the heartsick dwarf, enough portents. How many slapped on dragons in how many formats I gotta show you? Stay in character and stick with the story. Don’t get personal. I can get personal because I’m supposed to be evil. You’re supposed to be the good guy, remember? Now we gotta have a mat and rules. I got lumbago. How about five three-minute rounds? Listen, you know there’s nothing personal. You look like a good kid. Without that bitch in there, living off you and leftover Mark rattling around, you’d probably be my son and heir. But no matter. We got to have a fight to the finish, but remember nobody necessarily has to win. We can go on forever, a myth preserved through the eons, the light-going years, you and me struggling together end over end, eons on eons, to the last syllabubble of recorded time. And, I may say, in the style of one of my employees, supernal, infernal and, ahem, eternal time! OK. Let’s go.”
The dragon wandered off around the side of the castle. A lovely garden, somewhat overgrown, made out from an angle formed by the castle walls. Red ivy glowed and faded on gray stone, as the setting sun wandered in and out through the trees. It was a sweet spot. One could imagine Heraclitus or Marie de France tranquilly discussing poetry or even prose from reclining lawn chairs. The castle looked like an English twelfth or thirteenth century Norman castle, with a bit of mad Ludwig’s Schloss Maromel thrown in. If only someone had paid to keep it in shape, but Lance knew the dragon had stiffed at least one mason in the past.
The dragon had by this time dragged down an old mat, rolled up next to the garden tools and unrolled it on the grass near a fountain.
“The times I’ve spent here, scheming, dreaming of scaling heaven’s ramparts, directing the moves of the damned, in the pomp and vanity of the wicked world... Not wicked enough, I’m afraid, but I did my best.” The dragon trailed off, thoughtful. The light on his sensitive blasted head showed the ravages of time and extreme heat. Living part-time in what was, more or less, an infernal Bessemer converter is obviously no picnic, thought Lance.
“OK,” said the dragon briskly, “let’s get at it before we lose the light. We can stop at any point, you know.”
The mat was not large, maybe ten yards square, and the many rips in its surface were covered with gray duct tape.
“You could at least get a new mat,” said Lance, “I’m sure Saint Lawrence and Saint Theresa got better production values for their epic and very personal struggles with you. I thought you were richer than King Dis.”
“Oh, for goshsake, stop with that,” said the dragon. “I am King Dis, much good that it does me, when the proles don’t know who the hell he is. Inflation hits everybody, even the Man Upstairs. You didn’t get the news? The great god Pan is dead and didn’t leave me a dime after all I done for him. Xerxes did die and Croesus sleeps the tight-fisted sleep of the wealthy. Won’t go for a quarter, even with A-number-1 security. As for King Solomon, you know how those Old Testament Jews were. Nothing on credit. Suffer us not to be led into temptation, for Lucifer is in the hands of the receivers, thank you very much, and can’t tempt without help from some wealthy patron and where are they these days? Shut in hell with a spade, bare-bummed in front of a furnace. I am not what once I was under the reign of the Antigonids. I even stiffed the guy who built this castle. Remember? ’But payment got he nane.’ Good ballad. Good mason too, although expensive and the stonework in the north wall was always a little too irregular for my taste. Well, enough of my problems. Assume your position.”
The dragon, wearing a ratty red cloak, stood glaring balefully at one of the corners of the mat. A battered old alarm clock was off to one side of the mat, on the grass. Lance moved to the opposite corner.
“OK, when I hiss, we begin. When I hiss again, that’s the end of the round. And may the best misfit win. Good luck to you.”
The dragon hissed and moved cautiously out towards the middle of the mat. He doesn’t look so tough, thought Lance. He’s big, though, and how do I win? Pin him? With that scaly ridge on his back, it’s going to be impossible.
They grappled cautiously in the middle of the mat. “Time! Time!” shouted the dragon, “I forgot to remove my cloak.” He backed cautiously to his corner and, after a suspiciously long delay, removed the cloak. “Right, here we go.” The dragon moved out again. Lance decided to kick him in the stomach, an ancient karate technique, known as Nerogiri, after the famous Roman emperor who kicked his pregnant wife in the stomach. Whack! It was like kicking an alligator. The dragon yowled like a critic from The New Republic. “No fair! You’re supposed to wrestle! Greco-Roman, in fact. Classic and slow; class stuff with some history behind it from your part of the world, not this Kung Fu stuff, which a guilao is not supposed to know in the first place. I’m not fighting, if you’re going to be that way.”
“OK, OK,” said Lance, who was beginning to get the lay of the land, “I’ll fight your way.”
Again, a classic but cautious grapple. Hand to claw, toe to talon. The dragon was not in great shape, no question about it. He was wheezing like a last-ditch wino and puffing like a tired locomotive. All of a sudden, he made a strangled noise, argh! and fell slowly on his side.
“It’s my heart, kid. I always had a bad heart, as well as an evil heart. Big two-hearted defective dragon. I don’t know what you do or where you go from here. Leave me lie here in the garden; I’m immortal, so it’ll pass and I’ll be good as I was of old. I guess coming through the eye of the needle with you two and the dwarf Geist and getting booted out halfway through was too much for the Old Guy. Must have had too much good in me to begin with. ’Thou knowest this man’s fall, but thou knowest not his wrestling.’ How was I? I got a few good moves left, no?”
“You were great,” said Lance, “you were a power.” Lance stood solemnly and began a death-rede, knowing full well that the dragon was right as rain and this was another trick of his trade, an indulgence he could not pass up. More drama from the Prince of Darkness, the old worm, full of his plot to stop everything cold in its tracks.
“Beyond the seventh seal you strode, red and massive, O Lightbearer. You defied the sun and the sun’s son, the looms of iron fate. Your will was never broken and in the belly and the bowels you made a chapel of rebellion. God stood for a whole lot of things, you for one only. Honor to the Adversary! Trapped in your own glamour and with foresight for the bad ending, you still went on to play your part in a rigged game. Dii et deaeque, quam longe a destinatione tua iaces!”
Lance stopped. Enough already. The dragon lay still as the castle stones, looking up sightless at the fading light. Dead-seeming as a doornail, thought Lance, touching the dragon’s head. Cold as a crocodile his skin was, in life, in simulated death. Lance had touched and been touched. Now what contact was left? Where was the next stop? Where was Mark or his doomed spirit?
* * *
Dark was nearly available for the lovers and haters of day. The wind, become a breeze, stirred around, here and there. As the colors of the flowers faded, Lance walked back to the front of the castle. Epos? Myth? Fable? Legend? Like Ulysses, his belly provided counsel. Ess. Gimme essen. It was making audible complaints. Check out the castle. Inside Lance goes. Jesus, what a mess. The inside of the castle was smelly, filled with black wooden objects that were either instruments of infernal torture or Bauhaus relics or both, the floors littered with papers, alembics, cats’ heads, clumps of what looked like pubic hair, bundles of brooms, scythes and flails. The buttery and kitchen were even messier. Let us not recite overmuch the kitchen midden midst the stinking Misthaufen of untold centuries. Dirty platters, black forks, black knives, cans of Spam, tins of deviled ham, twice-bedeviled, haggis ready for the death-march back to Inverary, the offal of a thousand thousand unsavory breakfasts, lunches and dinners.
Buried in the rear, like frightened tin rabbits, were a few cans of tuna fish that looked as if they could pass somebody’s muster. Lance ate of the devil’s larder. The tuna was not tasty, but not altogether rancid. Finishing his repast, Lance explored further. Up the castle stairs to the tower. Cozy the tower room, with rather sinister hieroglyphics on the walls. Lovely black ink, sweeping hooks and curlicues like nothing Lance had ever seen. The scribblings of Shaumfoom, the Archimandrite of Antares or Shemloam, the Arkad of Skontar; star-men, vapor-breathers, eaters of metal, knowledge-keepers, like the monks of the middle ages in Gandersheim or Fulda, full of the wisdom of bees, the simplicity and companionship of a golden uncertain age. Servants all, if you please, of God knows what ancient arcana.
Lance touched the blacksnake lines with his index finger. There was an audible humming, like an organ’s throroughbass and the whole castle vibrated to its rooty foundation. Lance, inspired by the magic of impulsive and heedless action, continued his index finger’s disorderly journey, tracing the lines. The castle vibrated more and more, like a rocket about to leave the gantry. Thunder, muttering louder and deeper; the castle began to lift up like the S.S. Schwarzschild, bound for the boundaries of heaven’s holes. Bright destinations, hidden in dark legendary space. Lance continued tracing the hieroglyphs. The Schloss gained speed and the elementary laws of physics marched on into the land of quantum mechanics, cocksure in their complicated and primordial telemetry. Lance felt the heavy pull; with a last effort, he finished the following of the final inky flourishes and fell, gravity-bound, to the floor. Finally! Helpless, hapless. He stared up into the dark night through a stone window. Bound for glory, as was said many times in many climes. Stars appeared and were lost. The castle rumbled and swayed, like a Titan’s stagecoach. Power was being applied somewhere, in large helpings, manibus plenis. He closed his eyes.
Empyrean fast approaching! All off! Last stop! Let sky fall; let all that remains pass into the light! Home of angels. Lance became aware he was floating; he was in black space, a space pointed with lights. He was a head, a planet. No eyes, no ears, no nose, no mouth to speak with. But his senses worked on perfectly, oblivious to the lack of exterior organs. A Humpty-Dumpty, floating up, a headless body or a bodiless head, one. How did Lance know this? Omniscience? A private card from the Supreme Commander- this is Lance, he can know a few things? Animal, vegetable or Minerva? Or Mark the dwarf, banging on the door? Lost in the annals of story time, we (you and I) will never know for sure. Sorry.
All around, Lance was aware of other similar heads, all apparently bound for the same port. It was taking too much time, thought Lance. When would time drop his sourpuss facade and dance away like the divine Shiva-fool that he always is and was? From place to place he (kindly light), like the piper of Hamlin, leads and led a children’s army on a crusade to the stretching sea. Now, before Lance, space bent like a bow, illogically, magically, to figure eights and mazy interlinked quoits; the handwriting on the wall, the labyrinth, weighed and made and remade in bigger and more infinite patterns. Time puffed and puffed and fell behind Lance and his cohorts and was not. Now continued to be now. One note held and played. One arrow fixed and motionless, forever in flight.
Lance felt hot and realized he was on fire. Glowing like a tiger’s eye. All heads verged together and became one. Lance felt Greta, who was in or around him still, lurch or slip aside. Was she outside? Was she gone? Her presence refined itself out of his existence in a sweet lingering process. Athena, full-born from the Godhead. The dwarf, the Mark I left behind me, rejoined him like an awakening from a long deep sleep. Lance felt him there, comfortable as an old easy chair, Mark again. Mark, the faithful pilot.
With a jolt, Lance the Mark stopped on a platform which was as remotely familiar now as a snapshot of London. He seemed to be dwarfed again or in the presence of large possibilities. In front of him stood a larger-than-life figure, dressed in a cloak and tunic, wearing boots and carrying a long sword. Constantine? Theodoric? Tristram? From over the whale’s way, rearrived from the riverine North...Lance the Mark suddenly remembered. “Lord Armorica!” said Lance the Mark, in a burst of recognition.
“Almost right,” said the man. “Still with the jokes and that one a stolen one at that. Re-Joyce with some dope never read a book, not with me, who am what I am. And you, of course, are Lance the Mark for as long as time fiddles along someplace else. Nu, pretty good trip?”
The creatura, again, in costume. Lord Armorica took Lance the Mark by the hand and led him to a low, long, open window overlooking a sea somewhere. The waves were rolling in low ranks and swishing on the sandy shore. The green of the water was reflected, rippling on the ceiling of the room in which they suddenly were. A palace of a sea king. Crete, maybe, or sandy Pylos, where so much started and ended. Lord Armorica had shed his costume and was robed in a long white robe. Minos of the golden hands, maybe, could be.
“You did your job, Lance and Mark in Lance, you fought the kalon agona, agonizing through this dream of ours to an even better ending. You sufficed and more. My congratulations. We owe you some explanation, however imperfect, contrived and time-bound. You and your woman and the ghost came through the hole intact as a three-yolked egg and you brought down evil on his own ground, in his own backyard. Unfortunately, the dance doesn’t end here. Evil is now good (or at least better), black is whiter and so on, but even here it doesn’t stay that way. Creatures don’t always know it or think it, but they live second to second and in time the turning of all things to their opposite makes the mirror image a negative again. So we send it back on another journey in the other direction. Eternal tide through hell’s or heaven’s gates, eternal exchange, eternal commerce. Canute’s water runs backwards and forwards and sometimes his command will stop the sea’s inexorable advance. Ahab will sometimes strike the sun a deathblow in a boxing match of their own devising. The whole circus of events and nothing-at-all combine and break down in random notes and motets of freedom and illusions of free choice. A fool’s game. Congenital malformation of the chronicle. Endless seas versus endless seas. We can never know where we are, who we are, or when we are, exactly, precisely, in the griddle of space made open (i.e. nothing-at-all); we can only predict ourselves, like the weathermen, and the forces (which we are, in some small way) decree many surprises. Random we ride. The rules always change and we move as best we can from Here to There. We try. Now, however, it’s time (here, he laughed) and there’s no time like the present (another haw haw) to send you on your way. The trade’s been made and we’ll cart the un-dead dragon off to our own corner of intergalactic space and time. Good for evil. Evil for good. Who knows who got the best of the bargain? Even we are not sure and we know everything. Until you figure that one out, enjoy your brave new world, even if it’s dull as dishwater and goes on and on forever. Remember, as the old Greek said, the way up and the way down are one and the same. At least that’s what I think he said. It’s all Greek to me and always has been. It’s been good knowing ya. Now, I and my faithful serpent depart.”
Lord Armorica reached out his hand and touched Lance the Mark, the hydra of this piece and went on past him, bigger than life, his robe billowing, striding across the breathless deep, like Jesus Christ on the Sea of Galilee.
Alone, Lance the Mark was no longer where he was. The platform was stretching and thinning, like an inflating balloon. He saw all at once ahead and behind, the before, the after, Mordred, maybe dad, frantically waving him over like a traffic cop, cities, forests, deserts, mountains, ships sailing the sea, and deep below him, like mother earth, Greta (it was her!) spread out, coming closer and closer, in a monstrous succession of valleys, hills, meadows, plains, the county giantess sleeping on her broad back. Miles and toils of belly and thigh coming ever closer...miles and toils of her.
In the garden of paradise, viny and bushy, he came to rest. Dwarfagain, deep in the cave, black and wet, he trudged on. The walls glistened and dripped. Home was the little sailor, bearding the lioness in her den. No light at the tunnel’s end. Smaller the passage, slower his progress. Alone at last, he stops, he falls, he rests. The bud flowers at the tunnel’s end. The errant knight lies in full armor in the Venusberg. Lost, but never to be lost again.
How many dangers overcome? How many overlooked? Covered more and more by the growing blossoms, he sleeps. Edged on by the iron gears of time and chance (two ringers from afar), he forgets the familiar goads of day and night, light and dark, now absent from the scene. Tarnkapped forever, his disguise works a wondrous hilarious change, as he changes once again, becomes one more time two in one. Blasted loose from his protoplasm, he enters yet another house. Minnowing, he has the key to the beginning. Many mansions of my great blue father. Unlock the door! Open. Away! Nanny! Taddy? Zero. Zip. Zed.
* * *
In the beginning was the Mark. And the Mark was alone. Could he be Mark? Had he been Mark? Come from the womb, Mark knows nothing to come, nothing that was. In him was life, but his slate is blank, his fable gone. The time in which he lived and his story told no longer the time in which he lives, waving his little arms and feet and peeping out at the world. Fresh from the womb was he, baby Mark was he, fresh and insensible as new grass. Begin again! Let me tell you the beginning.
The farm was small and run-down. Dust filled the cracks and corners of the house. A man in a bib-apron and a woman in a long skirt and a shovel bonnet, carrying her baby, made their way to a wagon. The time was near noon on an early spring day. They climbed into the wagon and moved slowly away down a dusty road towards the nearby town. Potato country. Smell the spring earth, wearily bracing up for the pelican’s task. The crops come up in the fields. Likewise, down comes the rain. Planting and harvest. Oxen plow furrows in the dry earth.
Town. A church points an accusing finger in the vague direction of the parching sun. A few people are entering the church. The interior is pleasantly cool and calm. The priest waits at the fount. The baby is brought in. Swaddled away. Lifted up, his petite body descends on the priest’s hands towards the unbelieving water. Whale-sized, he swims in enormous seas among the incredulous bacteria and mono-cellular anchorites. A voice crying in the wilderness. “In the name of the three names, I baptize thee Mark...”
Fishers in troubled waters. Fishers of men. Up, up and gone, a bird, a mote, a Mark. The powers that be lean a lance out of balance, stretching towards Antares, every mother’s son of them. The Adversary suits up somewhere, ready to do battle with himself or anybody else who comes down the pike. The wheels never rest and the celestial herdsmen and those from the netherworld meet and meet again on the Ulyssean road to Midgard, coming and going, driving their cattle to market, talking, joking, laughing, passing the time of day.
Be still, you foolish hearts. Safe in the long days and the short nights, summer is coming and the stars and flowers are as clear as their gaudy and polluting mineral cohorts will allow. Bounce on, follow the ball to the bawling of all balling.
Wah! Wah! Woe! Woe! Mark, don’t cry. They love you.
Guilao- Chinese pejorative term for white person
Dii et deaeque, quam longe a destinatione tua iaces- gods and goddesses, how far from thy destination (goal) thou liest
Essen- something to eat
manibus plenis- with full hands
Nu- well, so
kalon agona- good fight
Copyright © 2020 by Jack D. Harvey