Necklace of Youths

The sky above the island is a palimpsest for centuries of celestial motions, as is the sand for prints of youth gone generations; at least, that is the impression on an open mind whose viewpoint is the pre-eternal.

The tiny island had posed for time-exposures of a heavenly paparazzi since long before the scandal sheets of legend went to galley stage.

The island and adolescence have disappeared now. All that remains are some footnotes in history books, this vagrant idler’s prose and, oh yes, the necklace of youths in its museum case.

Museums and briefer genres are a sanctuary for would-be artists with open minds and shutters.

I have been pressed close to the glass staring unblinking for hours, rousing an old guard’s curiosity.

“What is there to see?” he asks me.

“Just visiting with the prisoners, sir. I see canoes setting out at sunrise.”

My press card as eccentric buys much freedom of speech.

“And there is Gauguin by the tree, a child’s unread letter lines his paint box.”

Gauguin had his problem, and I have mine. His problem was art. My problem is hidden pearls.

How difficult it must be to prepare the pearls for threading, and so easy to break the string and see the work undone. There are works which can never be undone but only fictionalized. Authors do not work as hard as
jewelers. A bunny hides the pearls for all the youths to find on Easter morning. The reader must only have faith not to be strung along.

The island had its good and bad months. The divers had their ups and downs. Sometimes a shark would have his way. The youths grew up quickly in their hardship. Some grew up not at all.

Some things are rare and we reckon that rarity as priceless. How often does a month see two full moons? But it does happen. And once in a blue moon a young diver would surface triumphant with a perfect pearl.
Such a treasure was not his. He would give it to the entire village and there would be a feast. Some became brides during such festivities and the fuel of the village fire was stoked deep into the night.

Twice a year, a ship would come with merchants who purchased all the pearls. The perfect ones were for the Imperial jeweler.

Before the empire collapsed, the Queen would wear this necklace of forty such perfect pearls.

King David, of olden times, grew thirsty from battle; a thirst which nothing satisfied. He thirsted for water from the enemy’s well. Guards were sent by night at great peril to their lives to fetch a pitcher back. As the King filled his cup, he saw, not water, but blood to the brim. He poured it out as a libation and never took a sip.

The Queen loved her necklace. When the assassins slew her, the thread broke and the pearls scattered. There is always someone to mend what is broken when the price is right.

But I see you heading for the exit. I must tell you the joke before you go. The Queen never learned how to swim!

How many pearls are in the sea? How many stories are in me? How many worlds are in the metaverse?

I sought a pearl of great price but found only the paste of Maupassant.

Winthrop Sargeant translates it this way: “On Me all this universe is strung like pearls on a thread.”


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