Sirens change shape over time and sometimes even enter into Laughter.
When a Siren turns 16, two of her guardians, empty-handed and formally attired,[i] are given the opportunity to enter the Talking Institute for 3 hours to attempt to Graduate her—which is to say, to bring her out. These two guardians—always blood relatives—are known as Big Business.
Big Business enters The Talking Institute with nothing but their own wherewithal and need of withdrawal. Their formal attire makes them seem otherworldly to the Siren they intend to Graduate. Formally attired in this way, they certainly don’t look like Greenpeace Wet-Nurses.
Many women in Big Business are willing to take off their dresses so as to resemble (as far as possible) a Greenpeace Wet-Nurse. Indeed, there is a school of thought in which the only reasonable candidates for Big Business are topless women—preferably topless young women.
Every Talking Institute has its gates. These gates open for Greenpeace Wet-Nurses when a Siren is young, and for Big Business later on, if a Graduation Ceremony is attempted. So long as a Graduation Ceremony goes on, the gates of the Talking Institute stand open.
A Siren no doubt learns where the gates are when she is an older Baby. She may hang around the gates, awaiting the visit of her Greenpeace Wet-Nurse.
But then one day—the day of her enrollment—the gates are sealed. If the gates were a wound in the wall, that wound has completely healed and there is no scar. And so then there are no gates. There is no way in or out for 8 years. Virtuosity is thusly sown in the speech of every Graduate.
Suddenly the gates open again. The Siren cannot have seen this coming. The Siren was probably starting to question the reality of the gates—perhaps they were just a dream?
Will the Siren hear the gates opening? They open with very little noise. Will the Siren hear Big Business entering into the Talking Institute? Who knows how loud Big Business in The Talking Institute is going to be.
Big Business are allowed to choose the time for the Graduation Ceremony. They do not choose the day, but they choose the time.[ii]
Just before a Graduation Ceremony, Big Business are brought by Game Wardens to The Talking Institute—specificly, to the gates. When the gates open—and stand open—and Big Business first look out into The Talking Institute, they have no idea what direction they are facing and no idea where the Siren is.
Big Business is made up of some combination of the following blood-relations of the Siren: parents, siblings, grandparents, great grandparents, siblings of mother, siblings of father. If there are more than two volunteers, the identity of Big Business is decided by the Siren’s mother.[iii]
Big Business is always diverse, i.e. made up of more than one volunteer. Big Business only ever develops if more than one Nameless Soul in the Siren’s family is really invested in her potential presence in Laughter.
By far the greatest challenge Big Business faces is moment-to-moment orientation in time-and-space. They have no compass. They have only the sky, the ground, and the forest to work with. Miles and miles of forest, miles and miles of sky.
The gates of the Talking Institute stand open throughout the entire Graduation Ceremony;[iv] Big Business may leave The Talking Institute whenever they like, but once they leave, the gates are closed and the Ceremony is over. Game Wardens subsequently usher Big Business back into the realm of Nameless Souls, back into their homes, back into their beds.
Because the gates of The Talking Institute stand open for the entirety of the Graduation Ceremony, it is possible for a Siren to leave on her own, in an exploratory capacity, in a desire for escape, or for any number of other good reasons—even for no reason at all. She may even be able to leave without Big Business knowing it. In any case, no matter the reason or lack of reason, a Siren who leaves the Talking Institute is forever thereafter its Graduate, and may never enter again its gates. Game Wardens immediately subdue said Graduate and prepare her for Despair, if not Laughter (for which she is certainly bound, but for which one cannot prepare).
The subdued Siren, rising aloft in Despair, is transformed: she is now a Dreamer, and she is brought to Laughter, where she lives out the rest of her days.[v]
When Big Business have been instrumental in increasing the number of Dreamers in Laughter, they are said to have been “successful.” As such, each is subsequently known in the realm of Nameless Souls as a Big Wheel.
Consider the shift from Business to Wheel. Business—the established multitude, the sharing of purpose in the midst of the merely necessary. Business is inherently and essentially plural. They are a plurality, in this case, of tentatively allied social workers, or con-men, or stalkers, or hunters, etc…. A Wheel, on the other hand, is inherently and essentially singular. Not Wheels, which could be useful, a vehicle… but Wheel—just one. The Wheel exists in the space of theory; the Wheel, moreover, is the invention that makes vehicles (Wheels) (purposeful movement between here and there) possible.[vi] The singularity of Wheel does not blind one with regard to plurality; rather, it shifts the location and the nature of the plurality, moving it from the chaotic exterior (salesmen and their products in endless flux) to the orderly and measured interior. Wheel thus contains rather than participates in plurality. Wheel is closed (perfection)—its rim attesting—and at the same time Wheel is open—its spokes attesting.
A Big Wheel is really something—that’s the point. For this reason—and perhaps as a gesture of thanks—a Big Wheel is paid 5 times the average annual salary for the rest of his life. There is expectation (but no requirement) of a memoir. If a Big Wheel does not write (or co-write, if need be) a memoir detailing his experience in the Talking Institute, a feeling of disappointment is likely to attach to him. Suspicion may also grow. As in: what is he trying to hide? If his Business partner has written a memoir, everyone begins to suspect that this must be a false account, else why would his partner withhold his own publication. When neither partner publishes an account of the Ceremony, criminal behavior is presumed to have taken place, and both of the partners are felt to be a threat to the community in which they reside.
Every Big Wheel has proven himself capable of inspiring trust—and transformation—in the languageless mind of a Siren. This is more than most Nameless Souls can say.
The transformation of Big Business into 2 Big Wheels has to do really with 2 things. First, a plurality has been reduced (increased?) to a totality. The many has been reduced (increased?) to the one. Second, Big Business goes on in a Talking Institute, while a Big Wheel rolls in the realm of Nameless Souls.
Big Wheel is a hell of a help to any job application. What a luxury to be able to put it right there after a legal name. For instance, Henry Helmut Erickson, Big Wheel. It’s akin to Dr., or Esquire, or Sir. It is perhaps as prestigious as all of those combined.
His twin brother is a Big Wheel, whispers one of the whisperers. Her husband was a Big Wheel. Being a Big Wheel is a real honor insofar as it cannot be fabricated, i.e. one has either been in a Talking Institute or one has not. And then, one has either succeeded in performing a Graduation Ceremony, or one has not.
When Big Business simply doesn’t develop, the gates of the Talking Institute are simply never re-opened. The Siren for whom no Ceremony materializes is known thereafter as a Myth. The Talking Institute she inhabits is known thereafter as a Reservation.
A Myth is a grammarless woman living alone in the woods.
[i] Males wear black tie tuxedos, females wear ball gowns. Males and females alike are bare-footed in The Talking Institute—bare feet and The Talking Institute are to some degree the same thing. Big Business comes in softly, it might be said. The females have nothing in their hair, and the males have nothing in their pockets. The females and the males wear no underwear. The formality of Big Business is completely superficial, and often is stripped away and abandoned to the wilds of The Talking Institute.
[ii] Big Business sometimes opts to have the Ceremony in the middle of the night. Under cover of darkness, they hope to slip in and surprise their feral kin. The plan is not without its faults. For instance, how do they make their way into The Talking Institute in complete darkness? And how are they to know where the Siren is sleeping, let alone find that place in the dark? Their keen sense of smell? And whereas it may be true that a Siren and Big Business are hidden from one another, on the level of the eye, it is also true that a Siren’s feral hearing may be better than Nameless Souls’ hearing, maybe much better. How sleep impacts upon this potentially better (feral) hearing is not known but it is certainly one of the few truly indispensable questions.
[iii] If her mother is deceased, or refuses to decide, her father becomes the decision-maker. If her father is deceased, or refuses to decide, her maternal grandfather becomes the decision-maker. If her maternal grandfather is deceased, or refuses to decide, her paternal grandmother becomes the decision-maker. If her paternal grandmother is deceased, or refuses to decide, her paternal grandfather becomes the decision-maker. If her paternal grandfather is deceased, or refuses to decide, her maternal grandmother becomes the decision-maker. If none of these is able or willing to decide, then the family must simply forfeit the opportunity to enter the Talking Institute. Big Business, if it is to come into existence, must be made up of two blood-relative volunteers from the Siren’s Nameless Soul family.
[iv] This is not to say that The Talking Institute ever stands open to the realm of Nameless Souls; no, the area in which Talking Institutes exist is a secure area. No one is going in except for Big Business, and no one is coming out except for Big Business and, hopefully, a Talking Institute Graduate.
[v] A Dreamer’s very special relationship to Agony is immediately established upon her arrival in Laughter (this relationship is discussed below).
[vi] The unicycle is a vehicle, of course, but for practical use it is absurdly arduous. As such, it seems to make the point more than it refutes it.
Joe Wenderoth has written any number of books, most of which are thought of as poetry. Audio of his (including the award-winning podcast: About Brett Favre) can be found on Internet Archive, and video of his on You-Tube. He teaches in the Creative Writing graduate program at UC Davis.