Paul Wood, no matter what the title of his excellent book says, tells the truth. He tells the truth as it appears to waking human eyes and to the mind’s eye that discerns the difference between what is and what ain’t. His childlike innocence and honesty are disarming and delightful, and he has one wicked sense of humor, “wicked” in the sense we meant when we were kids. And that’s how he makes you think. Like a kid, all fresh-eyed and open-minded and stuff.
Paul’s “Life in Hawai’i” is lived right here on Maui. For all of us here, at least three of the pieces in False Confessions ought to be required reading.
If you can read the opening line of “The Magic Crayon and the Force Angelic” and stop, you are a better dodo than I. Check it: “I don’t know which children’s story ruined your life, but I can tell you exactly which one screwed up mine.” Read on, MacDuff.
I’ve never read a more amusing account of the Creation story than Paul’s “Seventeen-Foot Python Skin Found on Maui.” Read the Authorized version and Paul’s, and discover which one has you paralyzed with laughter first. Don’t worry about the other one; blame it on the translation.
Paul postulates this scene: “When God created living creatures, He dealt out their qualities just as though it was a poker game… Nobody gets ALL the cards… They huddle around, study the cards, ask for a couple more. Negotiate. That’s the deal.”
Well, for all of the animals, the deal is slightly raw. “One of the chickens holds up a card that says ‘Brain the size of a peanut,’” even as he tries to hide the card that reads, “Tastes like chicken.” Bummer. Worse is yet to come. Says one, “Look, we’ve got a ‘feathers’ card—but where’s the ‘flying’ card?” Unh. Not good.
Makes you wonder about the cards we humans were dealt, huh? “No claws, no tail, no armor. We don’t even have hair. We’re practically bald!” complain our forebears, and as He is reputed to do, God takes pity on us. He gives us more cards, which unfortunately turn out to be “The ‘suicidal tendencies” card. And the ‘whiners’ card.” Ooh, that stings, but that’s us, all right. I love Paul Wood’s imagination: he sees everything clearly with it, and he shows no mercy. The vanity in humanity is boundless, and Paul, at least, plumbs its depths with his pen, with spectacularly humbling and humorous results.
On the other hand, if you don’t weep over the piece about the death of Paul’s dog, “The Unoffending Death of a Kind and Simple Beast,” turn in your badge and hand over your mask because you’re not human. You may think you’re alive, but that’s just a castanet of coprolites clicking in your chest.
Losing man’s best friend is high on the list of life’s most painful experiences, but Paul reminds us why loving what we’re sure to outlive is worth everything. His dog, he says in a statement most apt, “emitted happiness like a gas.” That’s why we love dogs, in spite of the other gases.
He also describes death in an utterly new way that nearly stops your heart: “The rest of life moves in and takes over your spot. Like the water of the sea closing in over a thrown rock.”
This book is full of shocking revelations, points on rainbow-feathered shafts that pass through you and leave a blast of magic in your mind. Anticipate these lines in your exploration: “A bicycle is a shitless horse.” And “For today the sun is burning like a brand-new copper pan, and the sky is just as big as it ever gets, most generously blue and puffy-white.” And “I like weather because it makes you remember to look up.” And “Anything as flashy and fast as lightning is bound to result in a feeling of disappointment.”
Yeah, that’s exactly what I mean.
If you’re like me, you must know immediately not only what made somebody say that, but how something made somebody say that. Every sentence sparkles. Pick a card. Any card. Okay, that one says, “Big brain.” Wait, where’s your “Intelligence” card? No more? Ah, humanity. MTW