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Volume 15, Issue 1: Pictura

Pointy Top

Nathan Wilson

There's an interesting thing about pyramids. Well, several actually. But what I'm really thinking about is one particular interesting thing about pyramids. Namely, that no one knows what they were for.

I am weighing my words, but they are all spoken inside my head. I sit, inside my head, on a leather sofa. My feet are up, and I am waving off the kind offers of beverage from a faceless host. Outside my head I am dressed for work, though I have once again forgotten to shave. I stir milk-soaked wheat sponges with a lazy spoon. All the sugar is gone.
Oh, I'm fully aware of what experts think they were for. But that's mere speculation. Ah yes, tombs is it? Yes of course the later pyramids are most definitively tombs, but why the pyramid? Why must a pharaoh rest in that particular shape?
My son is looking at me. He has been eating yogurt. I have a daughter as well. She's around here somewhere, a wife also. I fish out a practically decomposed mini-wheat from the milk depths and offer it to the boy's face. His face accepts. The young gums squeeze, his tongue wrings the mini-wheat out against the roof of his mouth. Milk squirms down his chin. The sponge has been relieved of its flavor, and somehow, as I look out the window at a weary morning, I know that he is thinking of spitting it out. There is a squirrel in the yard cracking its whip.
Yes, the three burial chambers, intriguing, yes, and the vent shaft for the Pharaoh's soul flight, yes. But do you really think that a well-educated Pharaoh would believe that his soul would fly off to Heaven out of a tube pointed at the southern pole stars, the imponderables, or whatever? Invincibles? Probably. But anyway, so his body gets stuck in three different rooms and then phffft, he's supposed to slip out the duct work? No, superstition may have motivated the later pyramids, but I have a theory about some of the originals. Of course it will always stay a theory unless the grant money falls in place.
I think I've fed the boy more Mini-Wheats but they're gone now. I remove my son's bib, drink off the bowl, and set him on the floor. He heads for his mother's potted plants to examine their dirt. But for now the fellowship is purely male and unintelligent. I stare at my son. He directs my attention to the dirt in the medium sized terra cotta pot.
"Dirt," I say. No doubt he finds me as intelligent as I find him. "Don't touch it," I add. Our communications are not complex, but they are deeply felt by both of us. When I am in my son's company, I know that I am understood. I am sure he feels the same way.
"Have you seen your mom recently?" He points out the window at the ash tree. My wife and the cordless phone enter from the kitchen. She is not speaking but there is a cheerful machine imitating the speech of man into her ear. The phone is blaring again, and I can hear most of what is said on the other end.
"Welcome to Old Navy dot com!" spake the phone. Then there was something else followed up by a "for all your family's needs." The wifely smile falls upon my son and then upon me. The morning is not so weary, and I find that I am clever.
"What are my boys doing? Did your daddy feed you Honey Bear?" My son scrunches his feeble shoulders, squints his eyes and shows his teeth. This is followed by some very precise finger pointing.
"Dirt," I explain.
A woman from somewhere in the Central time zone announces her presence from the phone, and my wife is gone. And then swiftly back again.
"There's a squirrel outside. Why don't you show Buddy the squirrel?" and back to Kansas she goes. "Hi, I need to exchange some sizes for some online orders I've made."
"We're looking at the dirt."
"He'd like the squirrel. Just yesterday. Can you do that for me?"
The truth is, as much as he likes the dirt in his mother's plants, I'm sure he would like the squirrel. With some assistance my son finds himself standing on the couch with an excellent view of the world. He is always intrigued by the world outdoors. I think it's primarily because he can tell that it doesn't get vacuumed. He doesn't see the squirrel. He sees; I have no idea what he sees, but eventually he speaks, as translated by his hands, of the tree. I speak, through the same translator, of the squirrel. He understands. Communiqués are then forwarded to the squirrel by means of glass slapping and a series of head thumps. I'm listening to my wife.
"Really. When will they be back up? All of them are down? What about orders? When should I call back?"
"Is it because of the war?" I ask.
"Is it because of the war?" my wife relays.
"Oh no!" says the Central time zone. "No, the war hasn't affected us at all! We're just upgrading. We're just . . ."
"It's okay, I didn't. . ."
"Nothing unusual is going on at all, just an upgrade. Alright, ma'am?"
"Yeah, alright." The phone becomes lifeless.
"Was that reaction as funny as it sounded from here?" I ask.
"It was a pretty good one. Old Navy dot com's size-exchange-system is down due to the war. Buddy's legs are stuck behind the cushions." So they were. "Sophie! C'mon down! Your ride's here," she added, and the kitchen once again receives her. After a while I was able to manipulate my son into waving at the minivan full of kids in front of our house. The kids didn't notice, but Mrs. Stepp made up for it.
"Sophie! Honey, could you run upstairs and get Sophie out the door?" My heir and I bid the squirrel a fine morning, the boy mounts my shoulders and I mount the stairs.
I could hear the thumping from the bottom step. I'm not sure how I missed it in the living room. I've never been good at registering sound when any of my other senses like sight are doing their thing. The one-year-old on my shoulders seems to be equally aware that something is up.
When we reached the thumping bathroom door, entrance was denied. The knob had finally called it quits.
"Sophie, are you in there?"
"Dad? I'm stuck. The door won't open."
"Light," says the sympathetic brother.
My burden is removed and heads back to the stairs. He looks to me, I negate his descent and he sits unsure of his future. Once I am on my knees, it becomes apparent to me that the minivan out front need not wait.
To the door: "Hold on Sophie, I'll get you out in a minute." To the stairs: "Honey! Can you run tell Mrs. Stepp not to wait? Sophie's locked in the bathroom."
From the stairs: "Sophie's what?"
Eventually, I have to knock the door in. If I knew anything about locks, or knobs, or anything, really, I probably wouldn't have, but it was more fun breaking it in anyway. The son had clapped, the wife had shown concern, and I had been large and strong in my promises of repair. The five year-old daughter had unrolled most of two rolls of toilet paper into the bathtub as well as at least one into the biffy.
I found my way to work by way of kindergarten.
The secretary is amused by my wife. She calls at work a great deal. Of course I don't mind. It's always about important things. In this case, she was on my mother's cell.
"I'm shopping with your mom. Buddy's being hilarious—I gave him a plastic produce bag. Do you think that's alright if I'm right here?"
"I'm sure it's fine."
"I'll take it from him just to be sure, but I need a replacement. I forgot to ask you what you wanted for dinner."
"Without ketchup?"
"I eat it with ketchup."
"Yes, but our children should never know that, and they'll be present at dinner."
"Protect them from their father."
"Just the thought right now isn't going down well. I'm serious. You're making me queasy."
"You're pregnant."
"No, I'm not. Anyway, I was just wondering how your morning work was going. You seemed preoccupied when you left."
"Get a test. The forty-five minutes I've worked thus far have been just fine."
"Nothing eventful?"
"You been thinking about anything?"
"What about them?"
"Aren't you supposed to be shopping?"
"I am shopping. I can talk on the phone and shop. Buddy's with your mom getting a donut. I'm adding to our supply of spaghetti sauce. What are you working on?"
"I'm not working. I'm on the phone."
"Well, then, get off it. Is it your dream?"
"Your pyramid dream?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Yes you do. The dumb one with all the shovels where you dig up the Great Pyramid."
"It's not the Great Pyramid. I don't know which one it is."
"You should get back to work."
"I know."
"You never told me what you want for dinner."
"Yes I did."
"Okay, I'll pick. I'll call you before lunch."
"Grand, I'll clear my schedule."
"Do you like Fuji apples?"
And so it ends.
The pyramid dream—it really is a great dream. I've had it enough times that I can tell when the dream is starting and my sleeping soul holds its breath, giddy in anticipation, awaiting my inevitable discovery. It always starts at home. At some point I make the switch from home to the sand beside a pyramid. I know the transfer is triggered by something I do, but as many times as I've had the dream, I can't figure that part out. The pyramid isn't enormous. Well, it is rather large, but not as big as the Cheops monster. I think to myself in my sleep, "How do they know where the base of the pyramid is? Could sand just pile up around the bottom and make it shorter?" So I and my shovel begin scraping sand away, and I become tan in my labors, but never weary. It is just as I suspected. The pyramid grows larger. The base is buried deep.
Of course I can't single-handedly excavate a pyramid, so I shift the dream medium. Rather than doing the digging, I float back and up. The pyramid is very small from where I now sit, and it is really no trouble at all for me to reach down and scoop all the sand away from it with my hands. The discovery is almost here. The angle of the base changes suddenly. I catch my breath. My digging is growing frantic. Deeper and deeper I scoop. This is no pyramid! Ha! Beneath my hands is revealed an obelisk, a great big Washington Monument, and the original pyramid no bigger than the aluminum peak of the monument's top. I descend from my height and the structure reveals itself as too enormous for words. There is only one antediluvian structure that this could be. Of course that one was never finished. This could be the prototype, buried in a deluge-draining delta, and when the earth settled and the dove didn't come back, only the tip remained as an inspiration to future civilizations. Someday I will go to Egypt.
The secretary is on speaker phone.
"It's your wife again."
"Thanks." I have been tipping in my chair and lurch forward to pick up. "We need to go to Egypt."
"I'd love to. But don't you think we should get the basement finished first?"
"Could you pick Sophie up at school? She just threw up on the playground. And what did you want for lunch?"

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