Thursday, November 4, 2010

pocketa pocketa queep

That's a well known literary allusion, in case you didn't know.

Ah, well, it was well known in that world now fading fast behind us; the one where children learned to read early, and learned to love exploring books.

It's from James Thurber's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty", a celebrated very short story about the large fantasy life of a nebbish. I became acquainted with it by reading my big brother's English textbook a few years ahead of time.

"A huge, complicated machine, connected to the operating table, with many tubes and wires, began at this moment to go pocketa-pocketa-pocketa. "The new anesthetizer is giving away!" shouted an intern. "There is no one in the East who knows how to fix it!" "Quiet, man!" said Mitty, in a low, cool voice. He sprang to the machine, which was now going pocketa-pocketa-queep-pocketa-queep . He began fingering delicately a row of glistening dials. "Give me a fountain pen!" he snapped."

Thurber found the "pocketa" sound highly useful, and applied it in quite a few situations.

"It's forty kilometers through hell, sir," said the sergeant. Mitty finished one last brandy. "After all," he said softly, "what isn't?" The pounding of the cannon increased; there was the rat-tat-tatting of machine guns, and from somewhere came the menacing pocketa-pocketa-pocketa of the new flame-throwers. Walter Mitty walked to the door of the dugout humming "Aupres de Ma Blonde." He turned and waved to the sergeant. "Cheerio!" he said. . . . "

It struck me yesterday, observing our elections here in the US, that noise seems to be the most certain aspect of our politics and discussions these days, and the most certain outcome.

And that our entire civilization has shifted, from going "pocketa-pocketa-pocketa", to going "pocketa-pocketa-queep".

My prediction, alas, is that pocketa-pocketa-queep is going to be the chief sound, and the sum total of our achievements, for some years ahead.

And, if you have a fountain pen, I don't think anyone has any idea what to do with it.