Ellen in Puzantium: An Author’s Preface to Skip
All too often, they tell you that you’ve got to hook the reader. The first sentence, the first paragraph, has to reel them in and keep them interested. As if I the writer am some amateur fisher and you the reader a wily fish. I’ve never understood why I’d have to trick such intelligent beings into learning, or at the very least listening…(do you listen to the words you read?). So here I am, a dog in ancient Rome, and (you preferably a person (though equally acceptable if you are a fish—nothing against fish!)) this is my story...though, now that you are reading it, I suppose it’s a bit of yours as well.
The Crucifixion of the Nazarene was playing at the local cinema. It was an older off-brand theatre that got its features cheap after they’d been premiered a while. Which meant that ticket prices were lower, and for a dog (you’ll be reading that phrase a lot) that was a good thing.
“Hear ye, hear ye, by order of Caesar Augustus all are to go to their hometowns and be counted.” That’s how it opens, it’s a biopic, and they always like to start at the beginning. I’m not saying in that statement my view on when an embryo becomes a baby and where life truly begins. I’m just saying that it’s at the beginning or close enough to it for a feature-length presentation.
What we really should be clarifying is the hard “C” in Caesar, but I’m a dog, and you’re a person (possibly a fish), so what do I know. Aside from how you may or may not have pronounced Caesar’s name in the privacy of your own home, or county-funded library, it was a fairly decent two hours out of the day. I would find out much later that there was a post-credits scene which implied more than a few things. Really changed the tempo of the whole production, or so I am to understand.
Now I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “What does a dog do with the rest of his day?” (Provided you’re still not wondering how he paid to get into a theatre in ancient Rome.) Well, I often like to keep a few hours of the day open for something new, but after that, I return to my old haunts.
The fish market would be a good guess considering how often I’ve referenced fish so far, but no, it smells, and not in that dog diddly do good way. No, I like the burbs, or what will classically be referred to as sub-urban living. Or further demeaning the term, a group of people who live outside the city because it’s cheaper but accidentally create a new population density and end up living in thirteen square miles of houses with winding streets and worse traffic comprised entirely of your neighbors who were just as stupid as you (and don’t understand what an acceptable volume is on their TV).
Or me, for that matter, as my domus is smack dab in the middle. And yes, first he pays for a ticket, now he has a mortgage? Really, you shouldn’t get so caught up in other people’s finances (it’s rude). What’s important is that I have a home, I’m fed, and I’m happy, and once at home, I return to my “doguscript.” (I’ve got a little chair and everything!) I tend to spend the rest of my day writing the prophetic utterings and whispers of my mind, and before you ask, yes, I hold the quill with both paws.
And now we’ve caught up to the first paragraph...see what I did there? So why are you here? Well, thank you for asking, and furthermore, thank you for being patient. I know what it's like to read the author’s intro, hoping it somehow relates to the story and that you might glean something from it you wouldn’t otherwise, only to realize that it’s a boring take on how hard it was to write his book (which you’ve now paid for and forgotten what it was about and likely will never read again).
This my gentle companions is the tale of a little girl named Ellen, or at least something with the vestige of a little girl named Ellen, in a time and place that has not yet come about (for me at least, and maybe you as well if you’re a Carolingian) and her journey to saving the world. She discovers not only that Alaska is not an island, but that true friendship and the will to make a better world are often found in the deep embrace, of a good story.
But if already you are thinking too hard and getting caught up in the details, (which is something you’ll have to suspend if you plan to continue reading) just remember that fiction rhymes with diction and that those two seemingly unrelated words are brought together by their shared funny noise at the end.