Friday, September 18, 2009

Lafindumonde



On the edge of space and time there exists a city named Lafindumonde. This is no ordinary city. Its people are no ordinary people. So where's the distinction?

In the city of Lafindumonde people know, with precision, the date and time of their passing. Their lives are defined by this knowledge. They are on a schedule of events they enjoy, rather than a schedule of duties, responsibilities, errands, and chores. Their professional lives matter less, their personal lives more. There is no mulling over the next mortgage, car, or flat screen TV payment. There is less CNN, QVC, and HBO, and more sunsets, tides, and birds. Interests are geared less toward supervisors, colleagues, and acquaintances, and more toward friends, family, and neighbors. There is less Wanchai Ferry, Hot Pockets, and Burger King at the dinner table, and more homemade chicken soup, beef stew, and crème caramel. There are less corporate parties, business dinners, and "highly recommended" social events to attend, and more garden parties, small dinners with neighbors, and quiet movie nights at home.

In the spring, the people of Lafindumonde take their little ones out to see the glory of the daffodils in bloom. The little ones are told the daffodils won't be around for long, so every day in their presence is a crystallized dewdrop. Bumble bees buzzing around lavender bushes in front yards are not mere background music; they are an intricate part of the spring season.

When the summer months arrive, the families of Lafindumonde are at the beach and in the parks, enjoying the water and the sand and the trees and the grass and the endless blue sky. The children are playing with beach balls, building sand castles, enjoying picnics, picking worms, and flying kites.

In the fall, everyone returns home to somewhat of a grounding time. An ordinary work schedule resumes - the usual thirty-hour week. The children return to school - four days out of seven. In the early evenings, couples go out for walks in the woods. They enjoy the splendor of the changing colors, the crackle of dry leaves under their feet, the light crispness of the air.

When winter comes, Lafindumonde is a quiet city, but no one is hibernating indoors. Everyone is out to see the first fall of snow and watch it melt on the sidewalks. The outdoor cafés are packed with pink faces drinking hot chocolate and cider and watching the children play tag around the fountain on the town square. And with the winter freeze comes the highest entertainment - listening to the sound of boots squishing in the snow.

This is how the people of Lafindumonde live, every season, every year.

One day, a stranger comes to the city. We'll call him Mr. Z. He's not a visitor. He's here to stay. Because it is customary for the residents of Lafindumonde to know the exact date and time of their passing, the new arrival is informed of his facts by the town spokesperson. But this information does not have the desired effect on Mr. Z. Rather than doing as the people of the city do, he goes on a schedule of collecting, bookkeeping, hording, recording, preparing, hiding. He is ravenous for anything and everything. Grasping. Clinging. Tenacious. And soon after, he invites a female companion, also from out of town, to join him in Lafindumonde. The townspeople, until now, have not bothered with Mr. Z and his pettiness, but the arrival of this companion is a threat of changes to come. It is only a matter of time before things are no longer as they used to be.

The townspeople are nervous. Anxious. Jealous. They feel entitled to protect what is theirs. But as it is unlike them to force an issue, they ask their spokesperson to have a word with Mr. Z. Already, this is a sacrifice - meetings are not popular in Lafindumonde. During this meeting, the town spokesperson informs Mr. Z that his city's people live satisfied lives in the knowledge of their date and time of passing, and that they are not seeking any modifications to their way of life, especially by a person who came here initially seeking their way of life. And it is always easiest to swim with the current rather than against it, sir, the spokesperson tells Mr. Z. Mr. Z is pained by this exchange. He had hoped for more of a discussion and less of a monologue. He understands what the spokesperson is saying well enough, and he agrees with the logic behind it, except that there is one dilemma: he knows his date and time and is helpless to curb his instincts, his nature, which counter any attempt to change his habits and become like the people of Lafindumonde, who have evolved a contentment with the very knowledge that challenges him. And so, they come out of the meeting exactly as they had entered it, without an agreement. There is no animosity or resentment, but missing also are the feelings of hope and promise that hover over an inkling of accord between two previously opposed parties.

The people of Lafindumonde should not be mistaken as inflexible or backward. On the contrary. They have advanced their society intellectually, culturally, scientifically, technologically, beyond any other society. Everything in Lafindumonde functions with absolute punctuality, efficiency, precision, and perfection. Everything is planned, organized, and premeditated. Nothing is left to chance, fate, coincidence, or providence. Time, the most precious aspect of the city's existence, does not allow for such serendipities. The people should also not be considered cold or heartless simply because they know the dates and times of their deaths and the deaths of their loved ones, and yet are able to lead such serene lives. One may say that they are not as struck by the shock of parting with loved ones as we are. That they are able to plan for the arrival of such? Yes. That they can say their final goodbyes in a more eloquent and timely fashion? Yes. That they are better equipped to take care of unfinished business? Yes. But that they are heartless? No.

Mr. Z is intrigued by the clinical methodology the townspeople have adopted - it is what had brought him to Lafindumonde in the first place. Knowing that people in this city put in thirty hours of work a week and accomplish what they do and are paid large salaries and still have free time, plenty of it, for leisure and relaxation, had been the decision maker. But there is an unsettling element for him. Life in Lafindumonde is, if such a thing is possible, too designed, too perfect. It is true that Mr. Z had left his old town because life had become too intense with a fifty-hour work week and responsibilities too many to count. He had begun to feel like an indentured slave to his house, his car, his job, the fillings in his teeth, all of which required him to work like a beast so he could pay pay pay. So what had his options been but to explore, in what should have been his golden years, the possibility of a new life in a new place with a different vision of what is ideal? And so he had happened upon Lafindumonde. And, if truth be told, the townspeople had given him the facts before he made a decision; there was no deception involved. So, what to do, now?

Going against the current is something that Mr. Z acknowledges he can't risk; the spokesperson was right about that. And so, following several days of deliberation, within himself, and with his companion, on a cruel and brittle January morning, after the holidays and festivities are over, Mr. Z and his companion leave the key of their rental home under the mat at their front door, pack their few belongings into their car, and drive out of Lafindumonde while the city sleeps, knowing they will never return.

The townspeople awaken to a new day of dark skies and endless snow. But as is their habit, they go about their daily activities with energy and optimism. By the lunch hour, every person in the town has heard of Mr. Z's departure, but the news is just that - news. There are no comments, speculations, or discussions over lunch in any of the cafés. With time being as precious as it is, there is not a moment to be lost. There is lunch to be enjoyed in the company of friends, and work to be done - all at a leisurely pace, of course. And there is a town gathering on the main square to be looked forward to, this evening. A new outsider from somewhere across the world is coming to Lafindumonde with hopes of establishing residence. And the town spokesperson will be there to deliver the facts.

29 comments:

  1. Fascinating read. Not entirely sure what to make of it, it will take some more reading, but fascinating nonetheless.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very interesting story. Lots of food for thought. Will there be a second chapter? That might shed more light.

    Jai

    ReplyDelete
  3. Madame DeFarge,

    I'm glad that you're fascinated, and also that you're a bit confused. I tend to go for the psychological shock factor in my writing, I suppose, and human nature is a baffling thing. Glad to see you've come back...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Jai,

    I'm not so sure about a second chapter. I think my mind was set on leaving things hanging. But, I might get to a point where I feel like I want to establish some kind of closure. We'll see where it goes.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Absolutely wonderful writing! Where's the next chapter??

    ReplyDelete
  6. This was very well written and enjoyable. It reminds me a lot of what is like to live in a small town only more pleasant.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Trish and Rob, I'm not sure about a next chapter. It seems everyone was left hanging, and that was just the effect I was hoping for. But as I told Jai, I'm always open to suggestions, and I'll roll it around in my head and see if I can make something happen. Please do come back for more!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you, comeinalone. Praise is always flattering!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Great story! Found your blog via My deadly truths.. You're a great writer and you DID leave us hanging! :)

    Cheers
    Holli in Ghana

    ReplyDelete
  10. Holli, thank you so much for visiting, and for allowing me to find out about your absolutely awesome blog!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Very interesting story!. Thought provoking.
    Your blog is great!.
    Thanks for following and commenting on my blog.
    Following.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I like disconnects. How you pull the reader away from every-day and bring into this place you tell us about. It is a very original piece. Great work! I'm very glad I stumbled across your blog.

    ReplyDelete
  13. BETTY: Thanks for your comments. I can never resist following a good blog, and yours is excellent. I'll be seeing you.

    JM: Thanks for stopping by and giving me the opportunity to find out about your blog; I'll be stopping in often, now that I'm following. And thank you for your comments, as well. I sometimes like to dream up fantastical places where people live the everyday realities that we dream of living. It's a good way for me to acquire self awareness. My hope is always that my readers will share in this.

    ReplyDelete
  14. A lovely piece. Hanging is a perfect way to go - you have set us up for further dreaming.

    The answers in life are so simple, if we would only stop and look - and act.

    Thanks for following Journeys in Creative Writing.
    June in Oz

    ReplyDelete
  15. JUNE - I admire your writing a great deal, and I'm glad I came upon it. Thanks for stopping by!

    PAMELA and STACEY - Thank you for your lovely comments!

    ReplyDelete
  16. very compelling, intriguing - love it! great statement...

    ReplyDelete
  17. What a gorgeous piece. I do love how you make it close to ordinary and almost accessible but not quite.

    There is something disturbing about this perfection and activity in the midst of inclimate weather and the avoidance of discussion about what has occurred. The shadow has to have some place in "The end of the world". I suppose the shadow is the rejection of all that is unlike itself.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Yes, La Belette Rouge, you've exposed the people of the city for what they are! Although they've created what they believe to be a Utopia of sorts, the flaws that will be their undoing are that they live in a sort of denial and refuse diversity. Thanks so much for stopping in! :)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Your writing is intriguing and this story is as well. At the beginning, I was thinking, wow, what a great way to live, everything so perfect and hassle free. Toward the middle and end I'm thinking, would I really want life to be that way? No unexpected, no adventure? I think not. And I'm pretty sure I don't want to know when I'm going to die. I like that you left us hanging. An imperfect ending was just what it needed. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  20. 4EVERNITE -I don't think anyone at all would want this kind of life. Predictability makes for boredom. And no, I wouldn't want to know when I'm going to die, either. I only like to wonder, sometimes, if we did know, what would life be like? Thank you for your comments.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Nevine, thanks for stopping by my blog... and I'm still waiting for the second part of your tale? Will there be a second?

    ReplyDelete
  22. I really don't think so, Jm. I'm feeling like I just want to leave it hanging. The idea is that the people of the city are closed to diversity. But, there's a new story up. I really appreciate that you enjoy my writing, as I enjoy the topics you discuss. Thanks for coming by!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Reading this is like my being there. Outstanding!

    ReplyDelete
  24. I like that the reader is left hanging, Nevine. After all, there is not always closure. There are times when things just....cease to reveal themselves, and we are left thinking, wondering. Stellar piece, my friend.
    Much Love,
    Deborah

    ReplyDelete
  25. Deborah, thank you again. And again and again and again... :)

    ReplyDelete
  26. Dear Nevine:

    Revisiting your old posts time to time is a treat. There seems to be many posts which have been missed by me esp this one. I just wish this was the way people conducted themselves. I wish . . .

    Joy always,
    Susan

    ReplyDelete

Your thoughts are deeply appreciated.