Thursday, December 14, 2006

Today I hired a man to finish my sentences. He's a small man—a retired jockey—about 5'2", 112 lbs. But he's reliable, he never complains, and he's good at what he does. His name is Dan. Why did I do this, you ask? I did it because I have enough to worry about in my life without the added stress of having to think up complicated resolutions to every vague and desultory whim I choose to verbalize. Here's how it works. Dan follows me around wherever I go, and whenever I give the signal—two blinks accompanied by a strong nasal inhalation—he finishes the sentence I'm having trouble with at that moment. For example:

At lunch today, I was at a deli in midtown, waiting to place my order. Standing in line behind me were two teenage girls chatting incessantly about the new translations of Proust's In Search of Lost Time. It was rather a heated argument, with one of the girls expressing her preference for the original, C.K. Scott Moncrieff translation (with the Kilmartin revision), while her companion staunchly defended the new translation of the first volume, Swann's Way, by Lydia Davis. Normally, I don't like to get involved in petty adolescent disputes of this sort, but something about their obnoxious screeching drove me over the edge. "Look," I said, "both translations have their own strengths and weaknesses. It's okay to prefer either one. So stop yammering on about it, go home, and..." At this point I couldn't think of what to say next, so I gave the signal, and there was Dan, right on cue: "...bake some cookies." Not quite what I was looking for, perhaps, but a good start. The stress I avoided by not having to finish the sentence was proof of Dan's value. I could see we were going to get along nicely.

After the girls left (leaving me with a few choice words of their own), I was ready to order. "Give me a ham on rye with..." Blink blink, sniff. "...hummus and barbecue sauce." (Again, not quite what I had in mind, but luckily the sandwich would turn out to be delicious.) "Oh," I added, "and hold the..." Blink blink, sniff. "...mayo," said Dan.

Soon I'm hoping to reach a point where Dan can predict exactly when his talents are required, obviating the need for the signal. I'll be sure to let you know when that happy day arrives. Until then, take care of yourselves... [Blink blink, sniff] ...and each other.