Excerpt from Agony: a proposal:


Joe Wenderoth

At the start of Petique Fo’ Sho’, every Child, Tenant, and Landlord is expected to choose one not-obsolete English word to write on his belly in permanent magic-marker (Petique Dictionaries are available to determine a word’s eligibility, and hyphens are not allowed).  These words are known as Petique-Words.  Every day of Petique Fo’ Sho’, a Nameless Soul must be sure that his Petique-Word is legible upon his belly.  Permanent magic marker doesn’t wash off easily, but if the word does disappear, he is responsible to re-write it.  Nameless Souls are advised to touch-up their Petique-Word when it is necessary to do so.  When Petique Fo’ Sho’ ends, the Nameless Soul is free to scrub his belly until the word is gone, but he may choose to wait for it to fade away on its own.

During Petique Fo’ Sho’, a Nameless Soul must wear clothes that allow the word on his belly to be seen.  Clothes providing such a view are generally referred to as Outfits.

Illustration of Nameless Soul with Petique-Word on belly and an Outfit on—caption: Nameless Soul with Petique-Word and Outfit on.

A Nameless Soul must always choose a Petique-Word that he has never chosen before, and that no one in his immediate family has ever chosen.  Petique-Words are filed each year with one’s taxes (or one’s guardians’ taxes, if one is under 18).  A Petique-Word-list, referred to as a Resume, must be maintained by each Nameless Soul. 

A Resume must be legibly printed by the Nameless Soul it concerns... by hand… with a black thin-tip permanent marker (known as a Petique-Pen)... on a Resume-Sheet, which is clean white sheet of paper with twenty very faint horizontal lines running across it.  Once a Resume is begun, it  it must be displayed upon a wall in the home at all times (under glass), save during Petique, when the new Petique-Word may be added. 

Petique-Words are added to the Resume horizontally, which is to say, as one would ordinarily write, moving from left to right across the page.  Before he begins his Resume, a Nameless Soul must use a practice sheet to be sure that he can fit at least five words on each line.  Having at least five words on each line ensures that his Resume-sheet will be able to hold at least 100 words.  Given that one does not begin one's Resume until one turns twelve, it seems unlikely that one should run out of room on one's Resume.  Nameless Souls who live to 113 years of age are relieved, at that point, of having to update their Resume ever again, though they may opt to continue with it if they like, and if they have room.  

Illustration of a Resume-Sheet with 25 words writ upon it—caption: Resume of a 37 year old Nameless Soul.

Anyone unable to complete his Resume on his own (for whatever reasons) must employ a guardian to complete a Vita, which is an alternative to a Resume.  A Vita is essentially the Resume of a person who cannot write.  It is accomplished with the blood of the person who cannot write.  The guardian pricks the person, dips a toothpick in his blood, and carefully writes the chosen word on the Vita.  

Resumes of the deceased are cherished mementos.  They capture not only how the Nameless Soul grew his sacred vocabulary, but also how his hand-writing changed as that vocabulary grew through him.  When the average Nameless Soul dies, he has roughly seventy words on his Resume.  These words tell the story of his life as well as any words ever could.

A Vita, on the other hand, is never kept after its owner's death; it is percieved as a disgusting thing—the bloody napkin of a corpse.