by Gabriel Congdon
I was with my girlfriend and her kid on the beach. The kid wanted to boogie or surf but I told him that the line for a wave was tremendously long and pointed to the vast number of wet-suits idling in the water, dog-paddling along a ripcord strung by buoys that led to a lifeguard-bouncer, “Ocean’s played out.”
But sand’s fun! Sand’s super fun. We proceeded to make a sandcastle. I must’ve been in the zone because what started as a defensive structure—as the tide went out—grew into a latticework of ornamentation. The many motes arabesqued inland, curtained by a drainage colonnade, that led to a garden of ice plants shaded by a eucalyptus. The castle, Gothic all the way baby. I’d’ve gone Brunelleschi on that shit, but the kid and girlfriend kept fucking around, and like builders of the dark ages, I finally just allowed them to do whatever they wanted. By dinner the castle was complete with a tennis court, opera auditorium, and once the dumb family next to us leaves we’ll be able to start plans for a proper church. This time, motherfucking Romanesque.
“What’s so great about the Romanesque?”
“Well big guy, it’s a square and a circle. That, for its time, was something else. Before, it was all ‘do whatever you please,’ like you and your mom. Swerves and curves brought us to where we are, straight lines are what we were meant to do. The Romanesque is holy because it posits that everything is important; walls, ceiling, windows, everything works together to create harmony. It’s perfect math, and that has been the human creature’s lot in all this, we’re here to make math fancy. The rest is just icing on the cake. And what do you do with icing?”
“Scrape it off because it’s too much frosting.”
I kicked down a wall I was so proud of him.
“It’ll be math that takes over this planet. When Earth is summoned in the Great Roll Call, it will represent the periodic element of math. And art is math’s playful friend. You know all those animated movies that aren’t cartoons? That same technology is being used to make missiles.”
An engineer approached saying that the castle would collapese without proper vaulting and that I’d best scaffold it with beachwood till then. I told him to fuck off and to go kill himself. This outburst was a bit much for my girlfriend, but her kid thought it admirably hilarious.
I told them to go and that I’d stay with the castle until we could get a caretaker. I laid down in the banquet hall and fell asleep, dreaming of Lilliput, and the kingdom to come.
I hired some bored stoners to help me galvanize some of the structural points. They mostly smoked beers and drank cigarettes and spoke a Dylanese I tried not to understand. I wondered who was going to live here. One of the stoners said, “I got, like, this friend of mine, that’s like, super into robots, and maybe we could get robots to live here.”
I met with the supposed friend and seeing he wasn’t a stoner but a benny man, grew interested in the prospect.
“Here’s what I’m thinking: Dolls. We can hook them up with some ChatBrains and soon, they’re walking, talking, dueling, it’ll be awesome.”
The little dolls were doltish at first, but with some x-acto alterations, were soon nimble enough to fulfill their programmed caste. I was sad to leave, but the little figures seemed to have the place under control.
The next day I got an email from the city saying that they’re desperate for any touristy crap they can put in a brochure, and would I be interested in expanding that shit?
The girlfriend, kid, and I surveyed to space.
“I forgot to mention, they have this laser that will shrink us, and they were wondering if we’d be interested in living in the castle once it was done, royal family kind of thing. And if you actually think we’re going to have a baroque façade on the north-wing you’re fucking crazy.”
Again, her kid loved it, which only made hers and I’s ice thinner. She said she had a job and the kid had school.
“We’ll just get robots to teach and pay you.”
Nothing was holding me back. My life as a slayer of raccoons had gone on eventless for a score. I needed to ride this sandcastle shit out.
Between the Benzedrine scientist and money allocated from the city, the beach kingdom has flourished. We’ve magnetized the sand allowing for greater stability, and the robot dolls are multiplying by the shipment. We even set up a rival kingdom down the cove; it’s very Florence, Siennay. When the weather’s nice, we have the kingdoms battle, and lots of the people turn out to watch. I decided not to shrink myself down and be king. It was tempting, but the only title better than a king is this God gig I got going. And, I was worried they’d fuck with me, being that small. They would’ve ignored my architectural demands and poured ants on me and shit. I know I would, and do. Whenever the kingdom’s having a ball, I pour ants all over that shit.
And it's made for a nice postcard. And the news station got a cutesy segment, even the GOV radio made a dumb bit of it. The kingdom’s fulfilled all of its obligations. I’m so amazed at my success that it’s made me unseasonably cynical. It kind of means that every idea I’ve ever had had the potential for brilliance. Ennui ensued like a mud bath at the Spa of Doom.
Sometimes when people are observing, I say, “Don’t look at the kingdom look at me. Cause I’m the guy who came up with all this crap,” I wait for a second and then I moon 'em.
Eh, sometimes the kid doesn’t laugh. Honestly, I’m thinking booze is where it’s at. And the kid doesn’t think it’s funny when I chuck my empties at him, which is a real downer when it happens.
They eventually did shrink me down against my will. I was becoming a handful. I kept shooting surfers with potato guns. I’d yell descriptions of penises. I bought a dead sting ray and pretended to kill it in a very grotesque way. The robot orgies, I believe, are still a secret.
Life with the dolls was pleasant. Because they’re all ChatBoxs I couldn’t speak slang to them, forcing me to concentrate my thoughts and speak lucidly and it really cleared up my head. The kid still visits. He helped me cap a church I built too wide. He flicks me a lot for all those beer cans I threw at him but we stayed lifelong friends, and whenever the kingdom threatened revolt, I’d send him in and he’d go Godzilla on their asses.
After siring many sons and daughters and bringing peace to the kingdoms, I ditched this life. They buried me on a windy day, the clouds looked like snails and the sky was as blue as the Madonna’s dress. The waves wore choppy haircuts in memorial and the lighthouse gave my burial mound a ten-minute spotlight. The kid built a fine obelisk and the ex-checker read that Barthelme story about the balloon. No seagull squawked, no cheek was unteared, no surfer hung toes, and after an afternoon's worth of dusk the stars fell out of the sky.
After which, I was informed that I was just a bodied mind in a virtual game. I had had a ChatSoul all along!
“Why do you think your sandcastles never fell down?”
“Because they were properly structured.”
“You adorable little monster, we usually erase little things like you but we’re going to throw you into one more scenario. Now, what would you like to be reborn as?”
“I don’t know. Uranus.”
Gabriel Congdon lives in Seattle where he is one of the creators of the web series &@. He occasionally gets acting gigs in films where he's usually some kind of fx monster, and has recently gotten some hologram work where he played a zombie for Microsoft's Actiongram. Gabriel enjoys the music of Gustav Mahler, yelling about the Renaissance, and teaching his friends tennis. His writing has appeared in numerous mags and journs, and his children’s play, "The Biz" is available from A Pocketful of Plays.