(Bonus) Blog for Choice Day


Blog for Choice Day - January 22, 2007

I am pro-choice because I do not like coat hangers.

Here is why.

I think that someday it may come to pass that the Earth is covered in ice and mammoths will roam again. Also snow tigers.

And the people who survive will live in tiny villages.

And the coat hangers will hunt them.

We have tamed coat hangers in these quiet years. They hang in our closets, twisted into the shapes that we have set on them. They do not spring forth. They do not unravel. They do not hang things that we do not want them to hang.

I have never opened my closet and found a cake hanging there.

I have never had to say, “Bad coat hanger! I wanted to eat that cake, not hang it up in my closet!”

I am glad that I have never had to say that.

But it is a historical accident. It is a kind of false consciousness. We bind the coat hangers to ourselves, we twist them up, but one day, in that day when the Earth is covered by ice, the coat hangers will roam free in hoary packs and frost will cling to them.

We will call them the cold enemy.

They are cowardly. They will not attack humans who are in groups. But they are sharp and they will find humans who are alone. Or who are weak. Or who are sick.

They will separate them from the tribe.

They will pierce them, through the eyes, through the limbs, through the body. The people will be hung up on the coathangers and they will die.

We will call them the cold enemy; and only the grammar nazis on their sleds, the well-phrased bitter deaths, shall be feared more.

I will tell you a story of that time.

Its name is “Hope.”

It goes like this.

**

The winter has been harsh. The oldest are dead. The youngest too.

Kipply’s lost her brother to the hangers.

And she goes to the elder, whose name is Tom, and she says, “I’m going to go.”

Tom looks at her. He’s wearing wolf furs. He’s on an ice throne. It’s very very uncomfortable and it sticks to the bit of his leg that shows through the furs. He would probably live longer if he didn’t sit on an ice throne.

But it’s his job.

“We need you,” Tom says. “Don’t go.”

“I’m dead anyway,” she says. “We’re all dead anyway. And it’s what I was named for. So I’m going to go.”

He sighs.

He lowers his shaggy head. His hair is in great locks of grey and white and it falls over his face. “Then go.”

So Kipply takes her spear and she takes her provisions and she leaves for the temple at Hope.

When she was young, and old woman Ella was still alive, Ella told Kipply stories of Hope.

“We’re hunted by the coat hangers,” she said. “And the tigers and the wolves. But there’s a promise, that if a daughter of man goes to the temple at Hope, she’ll find a way to stem that tide.”

“Who promised?”

“A messenger,” Ella said.

He’d been a strange thing, a hollow wire man. He’d said that God had twisted him up from the shapes of the enemy to spread his word. And everywhere he went he spoke of love; and kindness; and truth; and promises.

He’d been the one to expose the grammar nazis as the enemy of humankind.

He’d led his disciples to the caves in the ice, the carbon dioxide filled caves where the grammar nazis gave their prey the silent death; stacked with bodies ten, twelve deep.

They’d said that these were ungrammatical people; they’d said.

It was a lie, the messenger had said.

He’d been the one to go to the sea, far to the west, and learn that there was nothing—not any more—on the other side.

And he’d preached to the children of woman and of man of love and kindness and truth; and he’d made his promise, that if a daughter of man went to the temple at Hope, the coat hangers would be ended.

“But why didn’t anyone go?” Kipply asked.

And Ella shook her head and said, “We’ve tried; so many times, we’ve tried. But the people who go that way are hung.”

So that’s why Kipply’s taking up her spear and dressing warmly in tiger fur. That’s why she’s taking dried food from the village stores—so much less than she’d rather; so much more than they can afford.

She’s going to Hope.

And she walks along the ice and when a pack of hangers finds her she catches them with her spear and she throws one down into the crevasse and she kicks one off to the side and it yelps and whines. And one of them sticks its wire through her hand, but she closes her fist like she were the very ice of the glacier and she snaps its limb; and the hangers draw back, whimpering.

They’ve lost this battle, but only this.

They follow her as she walks; and there will be others.

She passes a hanging plant, and a hanging shopping cart, and a hanging elephant.

She looks up.

It trumpets to her. It has the long lean look of an elephant that’s been hanging from a coat hanger for four and a half days. It’s asking her with its eyes if she can help.

“Can’t help you,” she says.

But she holds up a stick of yellow food, the kind with the soft white stuff inside that they harvest from the food pits in the ice, and it grasps it with its trunk and eats.

So she walks on.

“Heh,” she says. “Dangling Claus.”

Mrs. Claus glares at her.

“You’re getting coal,” says Mrs. Claus.

“I’m dyin’,” Kipply says.

“My traditional threat is ineffectual!”

But Kipply still cllimbs up and she looks at the hanger and she says, sternly, “That’s bad grammar, you know. Do you want an incident?”

And the hanger, with a kind of horrified realization, lets Mrs. Claus go.

That’s the only way you can stop the hanger, once someone’s been hung.

You have to talk.

You can’t just yank someone off the hanger or they’ll tear. It’s really unpleasant!

So Mrs. Claus tumbles down; and Kipply walks on.

She passes a dangling fountain, and a hanging toaster, and she looks at it with a sigh. She’d had that toaster, back when she was young. She’d wondered where it had gone. But now she knows.

It had gone off on its own and the hangers had found it; or maybe, just maybe, it had decided that a toaster was perfectly qualified as a daughter of man, and gone to Hope.

There’s even an icicle.

They hang naturally, icicles do, but sometimes coat hangers preempt the natural process, in the winter of the world.

She has to fight them off more than once. The little hangers in their packs, with the thumbtack babies stumbling after, whimpering ’cause they haven’t hung up human flesh. The big hangers, like tumbleweeds only sharp, which she figures are made by little hangers lumping together. Once, an abomination. That one, she can’t handle with her spear. That one she has to run from, slipping and stumbling on the ice, and only the luck that drops her through a crust of ice into a thin cold valley with her outer coat left behind her keeps her alive.

Once she sees the grammar Nazis from afar.

They are strange and insectile things. That is what you get when you practice too much purity. The bloodline clarifies, grows more and more towards the perfect state, and soon there are antennae, and strange chitin, and the gleaming, multifaceted eyes of the perfect Aryan man.

Their mandibles jut and they gesture at her and one of them fires a shot, but it falls short, and this close to Hope, they do not pursue her.

They only really care about ungrammatical women, anyway, although they’ll kill just about anyone, these days.

She has to fight the coathangers off more than once, but less than she’d expect.

“I’m surprised,” she says, in the wintry air, “that there haven’t been more of you.”

But the words fall dead, as coat hangers cannot hear.

They have no ears, coat hangers; no ears, no hearts, no lungs, nothing but jangly spines.

And at last she sees it: the temple at Hope.

The messenger meets her outside of it. His head is bent to make a grave and holy face. She looks at him silently. He looks at her.

“May I take your coat?” he asks.

But she shakes her head.

So he leads her in; and he kneels; and she kneels, beside him.

There is a light.

She does not look up, but there is a light, a terrible and glorious light, that hangs above the altar in the temple there at Hope.

What strange angel?

What great and holy power?

What beautiful thing is there, hanging from a wire hanger, above the altar there at Hope?

“I am here,” Kipply says.

And the hangers seize her from behind, and they hang her by her arms and they hang her by her legs and they hang her from one eye and she is strung up there, dangling, in the temple there at Hope.

The messenger says, driven by a peculiar impulse in its bent-around heart, “We— you understand?”

“You wanted humans to turn their attention from the hangers,” she says.

“Yes.”

“To dream that one day we would send a heroine to Hope; and she would save us. And to fight the Nazis, meanwhile.”

“Yes.”

“I thought as much,” she says. “But still I came.”

And for nine days she dangled there, barely living, barely breathing, and then she says, “You did not ask my name.”

“‘Kipply,’ they call you,” the messenger says.

“Participle,” she says.

And he understood in that moment that she had come, not for hope, but for revenge; and there was a great clamoring and ringing of the hangers, a terrible raucous cry, and she clung with what little strength she had to keep her dangling until the grammar Nazis came, there in that cold clear place without her dignity, there in the temple of the coat hangers in that place called Hope.

16 thoughts on “(Bonus) Blog for Choice Day

  1. Deep inside me I cannot but feel sympathy for the grammar Nazis, darn it.

    Also, I can’t help thinking that the final twist would have worked better if it were “Sipply” instead of “Kipply”. I don’t think anyone would have guessed, even so.

    Still, I laughed out loud.

  2. 1) I am reliably informed that Hitherby Dragons is a webcomic without pictures, rather than a blog, per se.

    2) Is it “grammar nazi” or “grammar Nazi”? This appears to be a stylistic inconsistency.

    3) The final twist is clever, but can a proper noun genuinely be considered a participle, dangling or otherwise? Is this not particularly the case when it has no secondary semantic meaning in English besides the name to which it refers?

    4) “And the people who survive will live in tiny villages.

    And the coat hangers will hunt them” or “But it is a historical accident,” et cetera.

    Though often ignored, it is nevertheless often considered formally incorrect to begin sentences with “and” or “but.”

    5) “Also snow tigers” is a sentence fragment devoid of a verb.

    …. ok, further continuance of that parody ceases to amuse me. Plus, my spellcheck is off, and the reprisal could be brutal.

    6) This was a clever story, and characteristically surreal–a morality fable about animistic coat-hangers, a postapocalyptic ice-age and insectoid grammar nazis, all leading up to a climactic pun. I can think of no one else who would or could have written this!

    7) I seem to remember you commenting that Hitherby “would never be political,” while reserving your right to political expression? I don’t mind, of course (I actually enjoy, and would like to encourage, your more political moments); however, as a bonus for “Blog for Choice Day”, it seems expressly political.

    8) As a political statement, this is not a useful contribution to the collective dialog. A “coat hangers” versus “murderers” framework amounts to two sides talking past one another. I’m mildly disappointed by the entry because, at the root of the choice/life debate is an issue that you’ve actually spent a lot of time addressing in Hitherby: “what makes us human and deserving of rights?”

  3. ADamiani,

    1 & 7 are why this is a (Bonus) and not an entry.

    6 is why it is here and not merin.

    And as for 8, the theme for Blog for Choice Day was explaining why the writer was pro-choice.

  4. Further to 8), this made me think:

    “Yep, comparing the pro-choice world with a world of desperate people and coat hangers, I know which I’d rather live in.”

    Which seems in keeping with the theme of this years blog for choice.

  5. I think ‘Kipply’ and not ‘Sipply’ partly because ‘kipple’ also means accumulated trash (from Phillip K. Dick?).

  6. “The big hangers, like tumbleweeds only sharp,”

    I find it interesting and amusing that even here, the mainline hitherby monsters appear. Siggorts are not hangers (I think), but the hangers here are certainly siggorts or a relative.

    in 3, Adamani appears to be standing in for the G. Ns. Is this concious?

    Hitherby is clearly a weblog. It is also a webcomic without pictures. (it is not a link-based or personal weblog, but that’s mostly irrelevant). A thing is what it is, but it is also something else — one of the qualities that informs all good fantasy with any seriousness, and which certainly does Hitherby Dragons.

    Finally, this is just gorgeous, in a classic hero catharsis fashion (and if it also is leading up to a terrible pun, well, that was kind of prefigured with the Dangling Clause). The use of external imagery (Norse, certainly, with a hanger in her eye and hanging there for nine days, but something else, too, I think):

    And for nine days she dangled there, barely living, barely breathing, and then she says, “You did not ask my name.”

  7. “1 & 7 are why this is a (Bonus) and not an entry.”

    The formal tags on posts here are quite interesting, actually — they’re so unusually meaningful, in that the way that one reads a post can be changed quite a bit by its designation as a history, a story, a legend, or a parenthetical (like a bonus). It produces in me an odd feeling that unless the whole thing is quoted, I haven’t really given the name of the post; i.e. “Essay Without Shame”, although it’s short and recognizeable, would be very different than “(Between Chapters) Essay Without Shame”.

    Kipple is indeed from PKD. Odin hung from a tree for nine days, and lost an eye. The coat hanger abortion is therefore like the cold personal Ragnarok of trash.

  8. in 3, Adamani appears to be standing in for the G. Ns. Is this concious?

    Yes. Also 2, 4, 5 and my intent (playfully poking the irony of blogging-for-choice in a forum explicitly labeled as not a blog-properly-so-called), #1. As an English teacher I feel some instinctive loyalty to my tribe, insectoid and Aryan though they may be!

    Hitherby is clearly a weblog. It is also a webcomic without pictures.

    Hm. What is the proper term for my insistence upon a binary distinction between the two? Logocentrism or reification?

    And as for 8, the theme for Blog for Choice Day was explaining why the writer was pro-choice.

    Whatever the other merits of the story (and, again, I did like it), I don’t think it does that.
    I don’t think anyone likes coat hangers, the real ones, or the ice-age hunter-pack kind, for anything besides hanging clothes, and possibly hot-wiring the occasional automobile.

  9. I find the use of grammar Nazis as a means to an end interesting.

    When one holds any belief so tightly that one is absolutely compelled to act on that belief, one loses volition. The grammar Nazis are not people, they are a force of nature. Like gravity and tall cliffs, they are an environmental factor that can be used as a tool by any party.

    The law plays a similar role in our society: it is a force of nature that enforces consequences on outcomes (because it cannot effectively judge intent).

    It seems to me that if we desire a moral society, it is counterproductive to legislate morality. The law should confine itself to issues of property and economics (which, as the reach of the Commerce Clause indicates, is considerable).

  10. That does it. I was already in the process of removing the excess wire coathangers from my closets, but today I shall purge!

    Perhaps by sweeping them under the mat of my life, I will no longer pay attention to them.

  11. I feel sorry for the unspoken, perhaps extinct, race of coat hangers – the plastic ones. They either work as intended, or become dog chew toys (oh, how they satisfyingly break like a bone!). Their wire cousins are so cruel, but they are simplistic folk…much like a comparison of the common American and an Amish person.

    Perhaps the grammar nazis got them, because I have seen little emblems imprinted in their soft plastic frame. Oh woe are the begotten plastic hangars.

  12. And now that you mention it, what happened to the wood coat hangers?

    You are, again, blinded by your false consciousness. The apparent distinctions between “wood” and “wire” or “plastic” coat-hangers are part of the superstructure of the world system, not part of the base underlying economic realities. When the ice age brings the collapse of the capitalist-imperialist system, such irrelevant distinctions will vanish like the mist.

  13. But wood coathangers and wire coathangers have different properties; perhaps wood does not have the elemental opposition to unborn babies that metal apparently does? ;)

    (Where plastic fits, I know not.)

  14. Plastic fits in the place reserved for the most evil and sadistic entities; the cruelty of the plastic coat hangers is matched only by their will to dominate all life. They have a steel hook combined with the flexibility of plastic. Has anyone ever told you “Everything’s going to be all right”? If so, they have not encountered the plastic coat hangers. Now go listen to ‘End of All Hope’ by Nightwish, because that is the song that you’ll hear when you see the might of their empire of fear and pain. Legend has it that the original coat hanger was plastic and was born of the roiling pit containing all the sins of malice; the worst of sins.

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