• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 12
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"This is a self-help audiobook," explained the soothing voice made tinny by the iPhone speakers, "Self-help, because you already have everything you need to be happy."

Marcel lay in bed. The streetlamp from outside illuminated a smudge on the wall where years ago he had squished a fly and hadn't been able to completely remove the evidence. He didn't bother checking the time. The night stretched on and on and on, like an inky abyss. And Marcel couldn't sleep. "Cultivate your mind like a garden," said the voice.

Marcel had long ago discovered that if he stared at the smudge long enough, its outline would start to waver, blur, and then it would turn into a different shape; something that had never been there before and would never be again.

"Cultivate your mind like a garden," the voice repeated, some uncertain time later.

Marcel stared. The smudge rippled, as if it were underwater.

When he was seven, Marcel discovered pirates. And, in the way of all children, it took over his life. He built ships of dead wood in his back yard, shout "Aye aye!" and craft eyepatches out of paper and black marker that always ran out too soon. His mum and dad would roll their eyes and wondered out loud when he would stop with this childish obsession. To Marcel it was more like devotion.

"Cultivate your mind like a garden," the voice repeated.



Occasionally they would visit his uncle Frederick, until Marcel was about eleven. It was Frederick that said to Marcel, "Do you know where seaweed comes from?"

Marcel shook his head.

"It's the hair of dead pirates," Frederick told him. "When they sink and drown, they fall to the bottom of the ocean, and their hair comes off, and because it's underwater it grows thick and slimy and becomes seaweed."

Marcel thought about the sea, and in his mind saw vast fields of seaweed, and the endless ghosts hidden there. Frederick laughed and slapped the boy on the back. That ended Marcel's devotion to piracy.

"Cultivate your mind like a garden," the voice hinted.

The visits stopped when Marcel was eleven. When he asked his mum about it she told him to shut up.

"Cultivate your mind like a garden," the voice reminded him.

Did pirates cultivate their minds like gardens? They probably didn't, Marcel reflected. They were too busy with murdering and pillaging. But some had become gardens, of a sort. Or at least their hair had. Was that close enough to achieve inner tranquility? Or at least a decent night's sleep?

"Cultivate your mind like a garden."

Marcel squeezed his eyes shut. He resisted the urge to turn off his iPhone, or throw it out the window.

He opened his eyes again. The smudge was just a smudge.