James The Curly: Smugus Magus

Items found while running were amusingly greyscale this week. I found them on different blocks of the same run. The blackie is obviously one of the dozens of hair bands I find on the run. The other is a silicone wrist band advertising an indoor trampoline park. These felt rather benign after my last find of rifle ammo. The message from the Universe must be put your hair up and jump around. Or it’s a metaphor.


If so, I’m not sure I get it. Seems to be a mixed message. Restrain and cavort? Bind and leap? Control and play? Or maybe it’s about levels of stretch. Blackie expands and contracts a lot while Greya just a little. So, be more flexible but retain your shape? Hold tight but stay loose? Or is it a head versus hand thing? Think hard but punch lightly? As you can see, the hair band is squeaky clean and the bracelet is filthy. Not helping much, Universe.

I may be overthinking. But then, I don’t always get these things right away. Sometimes they take some rumination. To wit:

It’s his expression that intrigues me.

The bull was found in a nearly life-size nativity scene over the holidays. There were also donkeys and ewes along with three alleged geniuses and shepherds and the usual characters cloistered in a stable-esque structure. The other animals posed around the manger looked bored. Only the bull held this smirk. Maybe because a bull wouldn’t be kept in a stable with donkeys and sheep or people? And who lets a bull near a baby? I mean, doesn’t he look like he’s calling bullshit?

But wait, there’s more.


Just a crack in the bubbling asphalt? Maybe. But doesn’t it look like a mouth? Specifically, doesn’t it look like an upper lip? You know how we use the expression if these walls could talk? What about this road? I’ve been running on this one for well over a decade now. That’s a lot of therapeutic time and miles between me and this road. What is he/she trying to tell me? Something like … You’re wearing me out? 

A thousand years ago I had a best friend named James. He often chided me for overthinking things by saying, “Dammit Mercy, sometimes a door is just a door.” As in a plank of wood hung on hinges between two spaces and nothing more. My response was always to passionately exclaim that a door is never JUST a door and we’d argue it out, agree on very little, but then eat lunch together later, each pretending the other person wasn’t his or her favorite idiot.

A door is just a door; who thinks that? Probably the same people who think a bracelet and a hair band have no relationship to each other or to the person who found them. Or that roads don’t talk back when someone pours her heart out all over them year after year. At least that bull seems to get it. And yes, it is completely reasonable to assume that the local Methodists drag him out of storage once a year to nestle in a bail of straw and lock eyes with me in collective disdain as I pass by because we know things.

In fact, unless the Universe compels me otherwise, I think I’m going to hang on to Blackie and Greya until the idols come out of storage again next November. As soon as the barn gets its annual erection I will make my pilgrimage, bearing gifts, to pay homage to Him. I shall lay these offerings at His cloven hooves to hail the bond of fraternal wisdom which has passed between us lo these many years and so soothed my soul. To honor my favorite nonbeliever who continues to make such communion feel relevant and visionary, I shall call him King James. Formerly known before His investiture as James The Curly, or among the gentry as James The Smug.

Think about this the next time someone tells you running is boring. Or litter is just trash. Or a door is just a door. Especially if that someone is you. Or someone named James. It’s a world of wonder out there, folks.

— Mercy

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