It is I, Arthur Wingsmith. You know, that semi-fictional, sometimes character, sometimes pen-name beloved by at least three people? No? Well, no matter, it is me nonetheless, and I have returned. This means two things. First, I have been somewhere other than where I normally am. Second, I’m gearing up for another year of delightfully absurd Wingsmithian writing. It might also mean that I have plans, which would technically make for three things, but I won’t know for sure until I get to the end of this post.
As this is my first post of the year, I feel compelled to write something simple as a way to warm up to the the task of writing things that are more involved. Towards this end, I thought I might say something about what I was doing while I wasn’t here. Seems reasonable, right? I mean, if it’s good enough for children returning to school after vacation, why not an Arthur? Of course, my existence is somewhat more complicated than that of your average school age child, but it seems worth giving it a go to see how it plays out.
Those of you that have read Arthur Wingsmith before will be aware that I am really the creation of the perennially directionless Nathaniel. As a consequence, when he goes somewhere, I am forced to go with him. Much of the time, this is not very troublesome for me, as for the most part he spends his days trying to figure out what it is he’s going to write under my name. Which is to say, I am always in some way an active presence in his mind. Holidays, however, are different. Holidays for Nathaniel are, more or less, supposed to be holidays from me. I find this a little irksome, but he’s never once asked me how I feel about it, so I end up being pushed deep into his subconscious while he trundles off to drink tasty beers and play guitar for an extended period. This year he went to Bonito in Brazil’s great state of Mato Grosso do Sul, and I went with him.
Now, Bonito is a wonderful place if, like Nathaniel, you happen to be in possession of body that works well enough to get you to a restaurant, or reach for the hats you might like to buy (he bought no less than two hats, and was angling for a third). There are even myriad things to do of a touristy nature, should one be that way inclined (Nathaniel went snorkling, for example). Yet, for an Arthur, a being that only has access to a body on a strict, and limited, timeshare basis, it can become a little tedious (I too like hats, but was not allowed to purchase even one). In short, in the absence of Nathaniel even once thinking things Wingsmithian, I got slightly bored. So, I resolved to entertain myself, and further resolved that I was going to do so at Nathaniel’s expense. After all, he deserved it, the inconsiderate bastard.
You may well wonder how I would be able to manage such a feat, not having my own body and all? Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy, but I had experimented with exercising some control over Nathaniel in 2015, and with some success. I decided to build on that, to see if it wasn’t possible for me to extend my influence. I must admit, my influence was very limited, and mostly involved facial hair.
“Facial hair,” I hear you say. “How,” you ask quite reasonably, “would that even work?” I’m glad you asked. Please allow me a few moments to give the history of my experiment, by way of demonstration.
Not so long ago – or rather a long time ago, depending on how you look at it – Nathaniel had me write about T-shirts. The exact date of its publication, in case you are wondering, was March 1st, 2015. It was also Sunday. In an act of potentially ridiculous absurdity, I was made to call that post The T-shirt proliferation. As the title implies, the post was about T-shirts, sort of. In those days one could never be sure that what Nathaniel wrote as ‘Arthur’ was really about what the title suggested it would be. This is probably still true, except for the times that it is not. What that post was really about is not so important for the discussion here. (Although, if you are curious, you should be able to access it through the ‘related posts’ link on the upper left hand side of this page.) What is important, is that as part of that post’s architecture, Nathaniel designed a mock T-shirt print. He thought it was very amusing, and this is what it looked like before he wrote all over it:
Three things should strike you about this image. First: Nathaniel is probably not much of an artist. Second: those star-eyes are really weird. Third, and most significantly: that is some really silly looking facial hair. Yet, I enjoy silly things, and began to think that, should I have my own face, I would rather like to have facial hair much like that. And then it occurred to me, Nathaniel has a face which he hardly ever takes a razor to. Technically, that face is also my face, and so his facial hair is, by extension, also my facial hair. I began to wonder: is it possible for me to influence Nathaniel’s shaving habits in a manner conducive to producing just that kind ‘beard-ish’ silliness? I confess, I was not sure, but I set to work anyway.
I began slowly. My task was made slightly difficult on account of Nathaniel’s reluctance to look in mirrors. But on those occasions when he did look in one, I projected a very simple thought: That T-shirt beard was pretty cool. And so it went for quite some time, until I managed to get him to perform small acts of ‘beard-scaping’. In time, small acts of ‘beard-scaping’ became larger acts, and then still larger. Finally, by the time of Nathaniel’s birthday – and with him believing the whole thing had been his idea – he looked like this:
I’ll grant you, that mustache/beard combination was not a perfect match to the mock T-shirt print, but is was as close as made no difference, so I felt I could chalk the experiment up as a ‘win’. Moreover, and in an unexpected twist, Nathaniel kept up its maintenance without any influence from me. I was especially pleased about that, since it meant that I had permanently affected his behavior. Yes, it was a great time to be Arthur. And it continued being great until the ‘time-of-vacation’ approached, at which point he started to think about activities that would involve less of me, and more of him.
I feel embarrassed to admit this, but before I even knew it, Nathaniel was at the end of thirty-five hours of travel, and staring at a check-in counter in a hotel. What is worse, he had arrived in Bonito and not even thought about me once. I started to pay more attention, and with that attention came the inevitable boredom. I had nothing to do, no story ideas to mull over, no observations of a dubious nature to make, nothing. What was I going to do, faced as I was with my irrelevance in a holiday setting? I mean, it’s not like I could go and see the new Star Wars movie without Nathaniel actually taking me along. (He did go, on the way back home, by which time he was already thinking about me again, and the boredom had abated. We both liked it, in case you were wondering.) Then, I remembered my facial hair experiments.
I did not need to encourage the regrowth of a silly beard, Nathaniel had kept it up of his own accord. Indeed, he had made some ‘improvements’. Chief amongst these was the growing of a mustache that could be ‘twiddled’. Could I, I wondered, encourage him to twiddle that very ridiculous mustache in public? This would require me to manipulate his behavior in ‘realtime’, a feat I had not previously been able to manage. I would need to start by encouraging a behavior slightly less ludicrous than miscellaneous mustache twiddling. But what?
Finally an opportunity presented itself, in the form of two absurdly small drinking glasses. I stretched out my will and suggested: These are some really small glasses. You should compare them whilst looking bemused. Also, get your wife to take a picture. Go on, it’ll be hilarious! Here’s what happened:
I must admit, I was a little disappointed at how easy it was to get Nathaniel to do that. But it was no matter, it had worked, and I resolved to attempt a more difficult test for the next time.
When the opportunity came to extend my control, it was in a setting more perfect than even I could have dreamed. For he went to a restaurant where, as luck would have it, they serve beer in abnormally large glass steins. Seriously, it’s basically a large bottle of beer in a frosted glass. I set to work. Getting him to order the oversized beer was not a problem, for Nathaniel loves beer, and has a waistline to stand as inconvenient testament. No, my problem was to get him to incorporate a mustache twiddle. Perhaps, as the glass was very big, I might be able to get him to look like a very foolish garden gnome. I reached out with my thoughts: You know what would look really cool? I mean so cool, that anybody watching would automatically want to be you? If you made a silly face, while at the same time twiddling your mustache. Even better, you should do that and also try to exaggerate the size of the glass as much as possible. Don’t forget to get your wife to take a picture:
Eventually, as all fun things do, the vacation approached its end. Nathaniel started to turn his mind back to his Arthur Wingsmith responsibilities, and I basked in the glow of successful manipulations. Yet, I wanted to go out with just one more ‘tache-twiddling photo. Something classy. Something timeless. Something in front of a burned out building that made Nathaniel look like the mustachioed cartoon villain responsible for its burnt out husk. I whispered quietly to him one last time: You’re looking very dapper today, on this, the last day of your holiday. You should take one last picture, a picture where you toast the good time you had, and celebrate your very impressive mustache/beard combination. Your wife definitely wants to take a photo of that. Go on, it’ll be good for your marriage:
There you have it. That’s what I did on Nathaniel’s vacation. All things considered, I had a pretty good time. Still, I’m glad to be back, for above all things, I like writing Arthur Wingsmith most.
Oh, I almost forgot. I said that by the time I got to the end of this I might know if I have any plans. Given what I’ve just written, I suppose my plans will be to ext-. SHHH! I think Nathaniel’s starting to pay attention. Quick, let’s pretend like we were talking about something confusing and innocuous. Perhaps sport? Let’s go with cricket, I don’t think anybody really understands how that game works.