Discoverye of the Talking Ass

Recollections of Millal Ba

Short fiction by Wil C. Fry

Written: Nov. 8, 2000

Copyright © 2000 by Wil C. Fry. All Right Reserved.

"...a founte of eclectic wisdome..."
" insane, reckless fool..."
"...quaintly eccentric..."
"...more worthless than non-alcoholic beer..."
" worthwhile as oxygen..."
"...a very smelly gentleman..."

These are some of the many things that have been said of the infamous Millal Ba, and I am willing to admit that I myself can be quoted, saying similar sayings. Many dozens of people have questioned me, regarding his identity, whereabouts, and sanity, after learning that I am perhaps more familiar with his character than any other living soul - save God Himselfe.
    Perhaps, as I set about to write these "Recollections...", I can describe him to all who have any interest. I believe that I am unbiased regarding his description, since I both hate and love him at the same time.
    How olde is he? No one knows. Where is he from? He has told me storyes of many lands, but has never mentioned the land of his birth. What does he look like? Ah. This questionable question is anwerable, yet the reader will have to peruse these recollections for a full description.
    Millal Ba's writings are - at the time of this composition - still largely (perhaps entirely) unpublished, and therefore, many times, the only source of his wisdome is in my own writings, where I have quoted or paraphrased from his works. (For Instance, in my poem, Circling, We Came, I quote him twice, once near the underside of the title, and again at the bottommost side of the poem.)
    Millal Ba's Collection of Ideas is largely unoriginal, and was compiled by me. It is a collection of clippings, Xerox copies, handwritten notes, etc., which he had collected (thus the title) and kept in olde shoe boxes or five gallon pails in and around his home. With his permission, I sorted through them all, surprised to find much of my own works among his collections, and chose certain parts for inclusion into Millal Ba's Collection of Ideas.
    However, all of his political writings, religious treatises, scientific & Natural observations, journals, letters, poems, essays, and short stories all remain unpublished. The manuscripts are generally written in spiral-bound, college-rule notebooks - although I have seen some on loose leaf notebook paper or in typed form, collected into 3-ring binders or in folders or manila envelopes - and these manuscripts are by no means organized, except to Mr. Ba himself.
    In his increasingly sprawling cottage home - for, each time I visit, another portion has been added or expanded, on the outskirts of New Bedfordcastleshire, these manuscripts are popping up everywhere. I remember once, when the two of us were sipping brandy and the bottle was running low, he reaching up to a shelf above his head for another bottle. Feeling a strange sensation on his fingertips, he then - after setting both the full & empty bottles on the tabletop - stretched further, and pulled down a scroll. Not an actual scroll, it was formed by a small stack of neatly typed, single-spaced, unnumbered pages, rolled into the smallest possible cylinder, and held in that shape by three oldened rubber bands which cracked and turned to powder before our very eyes, as he set the scroll on the table.
    "Would you look at that!" he exclaimed, unsure what else to say, and appearing as if he had been startled by a horde of Chinese paratroopers hidden in his back yard.
    After nervously glancing about myself and finding an astounding absence of paratroopers from any nation, I noticed that the rolled pages were creased slightly, where the old rubber bands (once new and quite elastic) had pressed into them. "What is it?" I asked, watching Mr. Ba pour brandy into each of our glasses. He had emptied his own half a dozen times, while I had only sipped.
    With his left hand - the right held his glass - he wiped the crumbs that had been rubber bands off into the floor. Then he tapped the scroll lightly on the side of the table, causing quite a cloud of dust to arise.
    "This," he exclaimed triumphantly - which was often how he spoke of his writings, "is a story I wrote when I was much younger than you are now."
    "But I am only twenty-five!" I replied.
    He snorted, and for a brief instant, I believed that I saw a tiny moth become dislodged from its resting place in his nostril, then I dismissed the thought. "Of course you are," he said, "but if my digestive memory serves me correctly, which is never a sure thing, then I was only fifteen when I wrote this particular aberration. Kindly open this for me, and we shall check the date."
    At this, I started forward, like a deer will do, seeing headlamps of a motor vehicle, and thinking heaven is nearby. "Surely," I thought to myself, "I will now learn Millal Ba's approximate age." (I often use words like "approximate" when thinking to myself.) For I had known Mr. Ba most of my life, and yet he had never revealed his current age at any time. But, perhaps, I reasoned warily, if he had indeed been fifteen years of age at the time of the document's writing, then the date would surely show - for those of us skilled in addition and subtraction - his current age AND the year of his birth.
    Firstly, however, was the matter of opening the scroll. Afraid the aged paper would break into powder, I worked slowly and carefully, with growing impatience, to uncurl the pages.
    At last flattened out, the front page of the stack of typed pages both disappointed me, and made Millal Ba smile. It is the kind of smile often seen on the face of a very drunk man who has not enough motor control to say anything, but instead, merely smiles wanly. His tall, straight, brilliantly white teeth barely showed through his parted lips and were overshadowed by the overhang of his overgrown mustache & beard.
    "See!" he cried, pointing, as if showing Jesus Christ to a heathen. "Right here, it says, 'written at the age of fifteen.' "
    My disposition - normally somewhat sour - turned more sour, since the bright hope I had entertained in preceding moments had been dashed into tiny pieces like a porcelain bowl or vase left inadvertently in the path of a steamroller.
    However, although I was not to learn his age on that occasion, I did find growing inside myself a spark of interest when I saw the title of the old and nearly forgotten story that had been found on the upper shelf behind the brandy.
    " 'The Talking Ass,' " I read aloud, then took another sip of my host's fine homemade brandy. "Is this the story of the donkey which spoke, as told in the Holy Bible?"
    Lifting up one leg, and pouring forth a sound like that of fingertips rubbing across the surface of a child's rubber balloon, he smiled. "No."

This story is entirely true, according to the author. Only the names, places, dates, facts and events have been changed, because the truth about “Mr. Ba” is far too insane to actually print.

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