The Funnel And Stamate

IA well-ventilated apartment consisting of three rooms, glass-enclosed terrace and a door-bell. Out front, a sumptuous living-room, its back wall taken up by a solid oak book-case perennially wrapped in soaking bed-sheets… A legless table right in the middle, based on probability calculus and supporting a vase containing eternal concentrate of the "thing in itself," a clove of garlic, the statuette of a priest (from Ardeal) holding a book of syntax and 20 cents for tips… the rest being without interest whatsoever. This room, it should be noted, which is forever engulfed in darkness, has no doors and no windows; it does not communicate with the outside world except through a tube which sometimes gives off smoke and down which, nights, one can have a glimpse of Ptolemy's seven hemispheres, and daytime, two human beings in the process of descending from the ape by the side of a finite string of dry okra right next to the infinite, and useless, Auto-Kosmos. The second room is in the Turkish style; it is decorated in the grand manner and furnished with the most fantastic items of eastern luxury… Countless precious carpets, hundreds of old arms, the strains of heroic blood still on them, lining the colonnades; the walls, according to the oriental custom, are painted red every morning as the are measured, occasionally, with a pair of compasses for fear of random shrinkage. From this area, and by means of a trap door on the floor, one reaches an underground vault, and on the right, after traveling on a little handledriven cart first, one enters a cool canal one branch of which ends no one knows where, the other leading precisely in the opposite direction to a low enclosure with a dirt floor and a stake in its center to which the entire Stamate family is tethered. IIThis dignified and unctuous man, whose shape is roughly elliptical, and who, on account of the extreme case of nerves he got by working for the city council, is forced all day long almost, to keep chewing on raw celluloid which he expels in salivated crumbs over his only child, a fat, blasé boy of four called Bufty. Out of a strong sense of filial duty, the little boy pretends not to notice anything and drags a small stretcher on the ground as his mother, the tonsured and legitimate wife of Stamate, joins in the communal revels by composing madrigals that are signed by the application of one finger. Exhausting occupations of this kind make these people, literally, seek to amuse themselves by occasionally and daringly, reaching states of unconsciousness as all three of them would peer through binoculars through a crack in the canal, at Nirvana (situated in the same precinct as they, and beginning just beyond the corner grocery), and throw bread crumb pellets or corn cobs at it. At other times they'd visit the reception room and turn on the faucets that are specially installed there, until the water reaches their eye level whereupon they all joyously fire pistol shots in the air. As far as Stamate is personally concerned, the activity that keeps him busy in the highest degree is the nightly taking of snapshots in churches of elderly saints which he later sells at reduced prices to his credulous wife and, more to the point, to little Bufty who is independently wealthy. Stamate would not have practiced this utterly objectionable trade for anything in the world had he not been almost entirely destitute, which is what led him to join the army at age on already so he could be the soonest of assistance to his two needy kid brothers, whose haunches protruded so badly they were both kicked out of their jobs. IIIIt was on one of those days while Stamate was engrossed in his usual philosophical investigations when he thought, for a fleeting moment, that he put his finger on the other half of the "thing in itself," whereupon he was distracted by a woman's voice, a siren's voice, which spoke straight to the heart and was audible at a great distance before growing fainter like an echo.Running frantically to the communications tube, Stamate saw, to his befuddlement in the warm and balmy evening, a siren of seductive movements and voice stretching her lascivious body on the hot sands… In battle with himself, that he might not fall prey to temptation, Stamate rushed to rent a boat and set off on the open sea after plugging his own as well the sailors' ears with wax…The siren became even more provocative… She followed him over the watery main, singing and motioning lubriciously, until about a dozen dryads, nereids, and tritons had time to get together from the far, wide and deep points of the sea and bring up, onto a superb seashell, an innocent and all too decent looking rusty funnel. The plan to seduce the chaste and studious thinker could well be considered a success. He barely managed to steal back to the communications tube; the sea goddess graciously left the funnel on his doorstep before vanishing, with every one else in that company, amidst laughter and giggles, over the watery expanse. Stamate, driven to his wits' ends, confused and divided, just made it to the canal on his little cart… Without entirely losing his cool he cast dirt over the funnel a couple of times, helped himself to an infusion of sorrel, he fell, diplomatically, face down on the ground, lying there unconscious for a period of eight free days, which was the necessary term the civil authorities believed should pass before he could come into possession of the object. After this time went by, and after Stamate returned to his day to day business and upright posture, he felt completely reborn. He had never experienced the thrills of love before. He felt he was a better and more tolerant man, and the turmoil he experienced at the sight of that funnel made him suffer and cry like a child. He dusted it with a rag, swabbed iodine on the larger holes, he took it with him and secured it by means of flowers and lengths of lace close to and in alignment with the communications tube and it was then tat, consumed by his feelings, he shot, lightning fast, through it, stealing a kiss on his way. The funnel, to Stamate, had become a symbol. It was the only being of the feminine sex equipped with a communications tube which could allow him to satisfy both the needs of love and the higher interests of science. Oblivious of his sacred duties as father and husband, Stamate each night would cut the ties that kept him tethered to the stake with a pair of scissors thus giving free rein to his boundless love; he began therefore to pass more and more frequently through the interior of the funnel, fanning himself with a specially constructed trampoline, then descending vertiginously fast with a wooden ladder in his hands at the top of which he would sum up the results of his researches on the outside. IVTrue happiness is always short lived… On a certain night when Stamate had come to do his customary amorous duty, he found out to his surprise and disappointment that, for reasons no that clear to him yet, the orifice leading out of the funnel had become so obstructed that any communication through it became impossible. Dumbfounded and suspicious he lay in ambush, and on the following night, doubting his own eyes, he saw, to his horror, that Bufty had climbed up and, all huffing and puffing, had been let in and through. He was stunned; Stamate could barely gather the strength to tie himself to the stake; next day, however, he took a singular decision. He first embraced his devoted spouse, and after giving her a coat of paint in a hurry he sewed her inside a waterproof bag so he could further preserve the cultural traditions of his family intact. On a cold and dark night, next, he took the funnel and Bufty and, throwing them both onto a tramcar that happened to be passing by, he waved them disdainfully of to Nirvana; later on, though, he managed, with the help of science and his own chemical calculations, his paternal feelings having prevailed in the meantime, to have Bufty appointed as bureau sub-chief over there. As for Stamate, our hero, peeping for one last time through the communications tube, he took one more sarcastic and condescending look at the Kosmos. Getting then into the handle-driven cart for the last time, he took off for the mysterious end of the canal where, moving the handle with ever-increasing speed, he has been running, insanely, to this day, steadily decreasing his volume in the hope that he may, one day, penetrate and disappear into micro-infinity. English version by Stavros DELIGIORGIS

by Urmuz (Dem. Dumitrescu-Buzău) (1883-1923)