These tales by and about Manfred Clootie, the pickpocket-poet, (see the panel at the right) ought to be in some kind of order, perhaps following the course of his life year by year.

But they aren’t.

If this were a book, the epigraphs might look something like this:

The more a man cultivates the arts, the less often he gets an erection. – Charles Baudelaire

Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot. – Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn

There are those who speak ill of me and there are those of whom I speak ill and they are all here on parade, the true, the false and the merely imaginary. Which ones lived and breathed and which are merely gaseous emanations from the sludge-dump of my life are not questions with which busy people ought to be concerned. – Erecto Manifold, Les Sept péchés Capitaux

But it is not, therefore they don’t.

Let their author speak:

“This is a story told by various drudges, not all of them harmless; a discontinuous chronicle of a disorderly life.”

Prologue – fish wish

I want to be a fish, I said, and they said, Why?
I said, it’s cool down there and green,
Like bottle glass.
And they said, You are mad, think of the nets,
And fish that feed on fish and worms with hooks.

And I said, those are traps for fools.

And they said: How will you talk down there?

I’ll sing alone, I said, in bubblenotes.

The wise old doctor shook his head
And told my grieving kin, You’re right,
He’s cracked, we’d better call the van.

And I was caught by two big men in hip boots,
Who threw me in their tanker,
and drove away.

At the aquarium they gaffed and hauled me out,
And dumped me in a bowl so small
That I could hardly stretch,

And now two days a week I’m put on show,
And visitors drop worms over the side,
Which I must eat – I’m given nothing else.

This wasn’t what I planned,

But it’s a beginning.