Gone Lawn
a journal of literature
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Gone Lawn 20
Winter, 2016

Featured painting, Queen of Vision by Dean Reynolds.

New Works

Thalia Ostendorf

A King

Looking about my rooms, the sight to behold is sparse, a scorched earth. The few things that are there I have divided evenly between the spaces. I take precautions, certain steps, to make sure I don't have too many things. They irk me with their sullen stares, their presence, asserting it everywhere around me. Before long they will go from things to Things, gaining an importance to match my own. What is to come of my home when all Things have a proper name like that? My space would be crowded, no longer mine.
They have the power to vote me off, together. Where would I be when the Fridge decides to close itself to my needs, or when my Bed argues it will not hold my head, what would I do? I am outnumbered. Reason that I may, they know the basic principle of the slavery that is democracy — I have experienced it before. The many overrule the few. They, the Things, cast a vote, together they roar out their name. What could I do? My indecisiveness cost me, and what I did in the end was not exactly honorable but it was necessary. Anyone can see that.
In a reaction that was more archaic than I had thought myself capable of, I followed the example of kings; banishment to the curbs or landfills, some beheadings, only taking very few prisoners. I could have taken a slightly more modern turn, adopting a policy that nations usually employ towards the ill-fitting Things of this world. They migrated towards my space, for my needs, and in their ingratitude they revolted. I could have denied their papers, their validity, and sent them to their place of origin, or even to a neighbor's realm. As long as they are kicked out, no longer here. The basic way of dealing with the unwanted in any halfway western country. But I am but one and outnumbered I will forever be. And this is my house, my home. That, thankfully, remains common and lowercase.
If only the other Things wouldn't harass me so. I did them no wrong. I consumed like any other modern man, why is it me that they have it out for? There is no shame in it. That's what everybody says. But instead of fading out, of being consumed, they gain momentum, essence. A name. Beyond a name lies a life to be filled, more or less autonomously. They make a better job of it than I do.
They are defined, the Things, and in turn they define me. Of my own I have no substance but what I bought and brought in here. They should be grateful. I saved them from cold shelves and last-season neglect. Nevertheless, they are too self-absorbed for gratitude. Take the two Mirrors; infatuated with themselves! Some Figurines smile and wink at each other — and at the Couch. I always suspected she was a whore anyway, letting whomever sit down, recline comfortably in her bosom. Anyone but me... That should have warned me. Their narcissism, their unwillingness, excluding me in every possible way. That I was able to walk through the door day after day is a miracle.
A coup was attempted, at some point, but I managed to regain power in the end. The subversives needed to be disposed of, the numbers of Things to be brought down if I wanted to survive. What I did cannot bear the name of victory. For a while I called it that, albeit a small one. Soon it turned out to be mere survival. All I own is now brought down to less than 50 things. things, mind you. The reign of Things has ended. I personally see to it that their numbers remain under control. It is the only way to keep the peace. My peace. What I must eat, I buy from day to day. It sounds excessive, and one is tempted to make the mistake of thinking that I need not take such precautions for something perishable. But that which perishes grows fungi — grows life. And I am not about to allow my subjects to multiply. They are completely mine, they have to be, otherwise I am not longer safe. In any case, this is how the need for a fridge is eliminated. As for the bed I mentioned, it took some time to find a suitable approach. Sleeping on the floor was attempted, and overruled by my aching back. If I mean to conduct myself as a king of this realm, I must be able to stand up straight. Not a king, excuse me, I meant the king. I am no longer unsure, one must have faith in one's place in the world. Which, incidentally, is how I keep my bed a bed. During the day it is a couch, at night a bed. It cannot take on its name in such a schizophrenic mode. It seems to work for now. I hold my breath for the day it no longer will. Remaining in power is a strenuous task. Just to assert my rights over whichever thing, I'll turn some of them out, unexpectedly, without cause. Exchange them for something that'll be uncomfortably new to my house. For those who wondered, this pen is borrowed and thus not at home, uncomfortable, submissive. I want it to write, and so it does. It does not know what else to do, what kind of ruler it is dealing with.
Looking around my room now, my eyes are met by very few things, and as I glance at them, they cast theirs down. A reign of fear. We are warned for the things power might do to us, but whoever thought it made us delirious and drunk with possibilities was so very wrong. Those in power are afraid more than anything. Afraid of retaliation, afraid of all those Things that might lash out if they so choose. When they do decide to cast me off again, I will be truly lost. A king without a kingdom is not only sad, he is an impossibility. Unable to call myself anything but a king at that point, I will be ruined, a mere thing.

Thalia Ostendorf is a second-year MA student (research) of Comparative Literature in Utrecht, The Netherlands — though she is happy to live in Naples over the winter. She has been published in The First Line, and is an editor at Frame — Journal of Literary Studies. While she does not consider herself to be writing within a specific genre, her interest goes out to experimental fiction.