Monday, April 12, 2010

How to Win a Conversation With Your Sister About Who Named the Unconscious Forest.

We drove clear down through Gnosis Canyon, beautifically desolate, and up and out into a Van Gogh realm of loomful sky and rolling lemon hills, interspreckled by a village now in then of haystacks, mudholes, cows, buckets, donkeys, chimneys, cropfields, shadows, huts, wells, lots of winsome country folk performing winsome country tasks, and silence.

It was the perfect setting for me and Shane to strike up a friendly sibling conversation as we drove. I thought up something I felt would be a rather absorbing topic that I might emerge triumphant from.

“‘Unconscious Forest,’” I say, rolling the name around on my tongue. “I wonder what they mean by that.”

“Who?” says Shane.

“Whoever that named it.”

“What makes you think it’s more than one person?”

“What makes you think I think it’s more than one person?”

“You said, ‘I wonder what they mean by that.’”

“Oh.” I was behind already. “Well, I don’t think one person can go around naming a forest.”

“You’d be surprised,” Shane says. “Regardless, I have no idea what the gentleman or gentlemen meant by it, nor lady, nor ladies, as the case may be.”

“It appears you’re also picturing quite a large naming committee now.”

“I’m not picturing anything. I’m simply rearranging your misimpression.”

“I’m just trying to wonder what they, him, or her meant.”

“Go right ahead, for all the good it’ll do you. You could always ask them, him, or her. Of course, they’re probably dead by now.”

I had not thought of that. “Why would they be dead?”

“Because that’s what people get around to doing if enough time passes, which it probably has, since it’s been named Unconscious Forest for nine hundred years or something.”

That made me feel unexpectedly mystical and cozy. The people that named it “Unconscious Forest” were long dead and gone, but “Unconscious Forest” kept being named by them. “I wonder how you’d find out something like that. Who named a forest, and what they meant by it.”

“It must be on a list in some drawer in an office somewhere.”

“What office might that be?”

“I might have no idea.”

“Maybe their offspring would know what they meant by it. But, of course, even if they knew, that don’t mean they’d tell.”

“Why wouldn’t they tell?” asks Shane.

“They might tell, but that don’t mean it would be the truth.”

“Why would they lie?”

I shrugged. “Something to hide? Family secret?”

“What kind of a family secret would lead them to lie about what the name of a forest meant?”

“If I knew that, it wouldn’t be a secret.”

“You could know what kind of a family secret it was without knowing the actual secret.”

“I suppose I could, but I wouldn't care to.”

She made a eye-roll to hide the fact that she was falling behind. “Why don’t you hook them up to a lie detector?”

“On what grounds?”

“On the grounds of detecting if they’re lying about the family secret.”

“You can’t just hook people up to lie detectors to find out about a family secret. There’s laws. There’s decency.”

“What’s more important, finding something out, or laws and decency?”

“Depends how important it is what you’re finding out.”

“What if it’s the family secret of terrorists intent on destroying our village?”

“The offspring of the people that named it the Unconscious Forest are terrorists intent on destroying our village?”

She sniffled sidewise in one nostril, meaning we both knew the entire conversation was slipping away from her. “I’ll tell you something,” she says. “We ought to hook you up right now and find out if you really want to know what their family secret is, or if you’re merely trying to ruin a nice Sunday drive.”

“People can fool lie detectors.”

“Yes, psychopaths, ahem,” she snorts. “In any case, I doubt whoever named its offspring are psychopaths who could fool a lie detector about a family secret.”

“Why not?”

“Well, I would hope not.”

“Why would you hope their offspring wasn’t psychopaths that could fool a lie detector about a family secret any more than anybody else’s offspring?”

She started to answer, saw that she had lost, let her head loll back, and pretended to start snoring. It was fake as cardboard pudding, but, win or lose, if somebody don’t want to have a friendly conversation about the Unconscious Forest to pass the time, nobody can make you.


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