Yesterday it seemed as if the traces of polonium 210 (are there two hundred and nine other versions of it...or is my lack of chemistry showing?) the police are finding scattered around restaurants, hotels, office and flats in London, on aeroplanes, in Europe and who knows where next, are like the breadcrumbs Hansel and Gretel dropped behind them when they were taken out into the forest. Eventually they will lead to home (or in this case to the door of the wicked witch) unless of course the birds peck them all up first.
But today I've decided that for the protagonists it's more like the story of The Golden Goose where Dummling, the idiot third son of the farmer shows kindness to the little grey man in the woods, shares his lunch, and gets given the golden goose. Three young girls try to steal golden goose feathers but get stuck to it. A parson tries to berate the attached girls for apparently following the young man, and finds himself stuck. His sexton comes to get him to give a sermon and gets stuck too. And so on until there is a long line - like the dance of death - following the oblivious Dummling and the golden goose under his arm.
A contamination story, I think. It starts with getting stuck from greed. Then it's interference that gets you get stuck on/sucked in to what you interfere with. But further and further down the line the ones who are stuck know nothing about why they are getting stuck. They're miles from the golden goose. They've never even thought of a golden goose. They were just passing by and took a hand that was held out to them for help, or brushed against the last in line and there they were attached too. No idea why or what for. Innocently stuck. Not greedy, not interfering, just stuck, as the goose procession crossed their path. Like people who have just been going about their business this past month, living in society, getting on with their lives and work, going to a Japanese restaurant (hundreds), meeting in a hotel (more hundreds), or flying on a BA plane (30,000), being part of the busy world.
All the while intricate webs were being woven with invisible thread no one's ever imagined actually existed, the stuff of ironic post-cold war spy movies, nothing to do with real life or you or me. Like viruses reproducing, impossible to see with the naked eye, just getting on with their own ridiculous minimal concerns, self-involved, a world apart from restaurants and aeroplanes that you or I go to and travel on. We don't really believe in viruses any more than we believe in doses of polonium 210 that can kill you in amounts 2 million times smaller than a lethal dose of cyanide (A curious statistic. It's also probably 1quintillion times stronger than a lethal dose of common salt. I can see why that makes salt less frightening. But I feel no comfort about a small dose of cyanide). We know viruses exist, but we don't believe in them. Not until we get the flu. It always feels astonishing to me that I have caught something, from the air, from someone else. Very hard to credit, those microbes that get under your skin and make your blood boil for no reason at all. Just because you breathe and happened to be breathing where the microbe was breeding or the polonium dust fell. If you believe in polonium clap your hands. Much, much easier to believe in purpose than randomness. Which is why we have religion, of course.
Wouldn't it piss you off if you got polonium poisoning just by accident? Being poisoned by an enemy - spies and hitmen with sci fi methods - that all makes sense. Just like getting the pox from having sex makes sense. But from a lavatory seat? Ridiculous. Innocent bystanderdom is the worst. See Kafka (unless you think that K was guilty all along, which of course he is, we are, and being fitted up is just being punished for the thing we happened not to do rather than for what we in fact did). But surely we're none of us so guilty that we should die of nothing very much at all, something invisible, for God's sake. Something that has nothing to do with us. Actually, that's not a bad description of death. We all die of something that's nothing to do with us.
Tacked on to the end of the story of The Golden Goose, for all the world as if it got stuck to the story just the like people in the story did, is the greedy anal-retentive king, father of a princess who never smiles. He promises her hand in marriage to anyone who can make her smile, and Dummling happens to be passing by. An innocent bystander, in fact. She laughs at the line of people stuck to each other and the goose. Dummling wins the hand of the beautiful princess but the king doesn't fancy handing over his kingdom to a simpleton. He sets tasks as princesses' fathers are wont to do. Find me someone who will drink a cellar full of wine and eat a mountain range of bread. The little grey man, ever grateful, ever greedy, obliges. Competitive eating, more like a shitting on all the hungry people in the world, isn't just a grotesque modern invention.
Between competitive eating and murder by polonium I conclude that we are insane. Folk tales have been warning us about this for centuries, but to no avail. And the moral of this story (apart from it's always a good idea to help out grey little men) is: If you want a laughing princess you're going to have to settle for a simpleton as a son-in-law.