Moon #3: “The Magician and the Fish”
“Roll for initiative.”
Episode 3 of All the Faces of the Moon finds storyteller Mike Daisey in top form. Focused, funny, and full of promise about the overall direction of the piece, this chapter recounts Daisey’s early days playing D&D in rural Maine and the events that led to his becoming a monologist. It culminates with a fateful run-in with Phil, a mysterious orange-vested weirdo who lives in a shack in the woods.
According to Daisey his career as a monologist is the result of his isolated upbringing in Maine, a harsh, cold environment that infused him with a bleak worldview at a very young age. In high school, he joined both the debate team and a Dungeons and Dragons group purely for human interaction. It was thanks to both, he says, that he learned the true value of words; that rather than firing them out machine gun style, he could learn to make the words “be still.”
As I mentioned, this third segment deviates from the looser structure of parts one and two and is all the stronger for its limited scope. For one, Daisey describes every aspect his upbringing with resonant clarity. The frosty Maine atmosphere sneaks into his metaphors, like when he describes his rough and tumble D&D friend Gibs’ perpetual anger as being just beneath the surface – he goes on to say that it is under a “thin crust that you couldn’t walk out on. You would break through the crust and your leg would be immersed in anger.” As we all do, Daisey transforms the facts of his childhood into a kind of insular folklore, which is fitting because he deals in mythology pretty often this time around.
At one point, he allows himself a potent digression on the subject of why it’s so hard to believe Tom Cruise as an actor:
What has happened is that he’s just a funnel for mythology. When you see him in your head, you see all the different visions of him are laying on top of each other. There is a human figure, but it’s bigger than any of us, it’s an actor. So as a consequence it’s very, very hard to have a human feeling about it. It’s not that he isn’t real; in fact in a way it’s that he’s more real than he’s supposed to be.
Daisey funnels a good deal of mythology himself, dutifully name-checking fellow Maine resident Stephen King before relating a positively King-ian tale of how he and Gibs ditched school to finally figure out what was going on with that creepy Phil dude in the woods. Soon, Daisey has his hands on Phil’s greatest treasure: a deck of tarot cards wrapped in an oil cloth. (Daisey pauses to proudly admit that he only knew what an oil cloth was thanks to D&D.) When Phil catches them with his deck and demands it back, the self-proclaimed coward Daisey speaks with a boldness that surprises him: “What will you give me for them?”
“What would you have of me?” Phil asks.
“A story,” Daisey answers. “One for each card.”
It’s a pivotal exchange and, when you consider Larissa Tokmakova’s tarot card inspired paintings and the format of this piece, one that has surely informed the super-structure of this story. After such an engrossing episode, I can’t wait to find out how.