Conversations with My Friend Trilobite

Jihoon Park

August 24th, 1881

Visited Trilobite’s cave after my morning trail walk. He was turned over and shriveled on the floor, four empty wine bottles on his table (an uprooted tree stump). I woke him with a kick. “Drinking like this will kill you,” I said. Trilobite only laughed. “In ten years, I’ll regret the things I didn’t do more than the things I did,” he said. “Why not then, with that logic, smoke opium every day?” I asked, “Why not murder the innocent? Why not masturbate in public?” “You’re right, Charles,” said Trilobite, “I should do all those things and more.” Trilobite was too sick with wine to move, so I had to carry him to the creek. He seemed rejuvenated after a quick swim.

Swimming, Trilobite said, is like being baptized in the tears of saints.

Somewhere in Trilobite’s strange biology may be the secret to how a small creature can consume such vast amounts of alcohol.

September 5th, 1881

Took a stroll through the village market. I bought roasted chestnuts, and Trilobite found an old turkey leg to gnaw on. “Charles, do you know what it’s like to wake every morning knowing you’re supposed to be extinct?” Trilobite asked. “I’m not the miraculous living fossil everyone says I am. I was created by accident. A lone anomaly. If there was even one other trilobite alive in the world, I may find meaning in my life. I feel God is punishing me.” He gave the rest of his turkey leg to a one-legged beggar boy, who put it in his shirt pocket, presumably for later consumption. I told Trilobite that in my late age, I feel God’s presence growing more distant every day. I told him maybe there’s no God at all.

Killing God, Trilobite said, is the only acceptable form of murder.

October 2nd, 1881

Trilobite hosted dinner (wine and boiled barnacles) for me and Alfred, who had recently returned to England from his Malaysia expedition. As we drank, we discussed the evolutionary lineage of barnacles (particularly the homological structures in reproductive organs across barnacle species, my research when I was aboard the Beagle). As always with Alfred, a theoretical debate ensued. “Yes Charles, natural selection explains the development of observable traits, such as those barnacle penises you so admire, but it cannot explain the human psyche. Your Origin of Species doesn’t account for invention, creativity, and resilience, the core markers of humanity. Don’t be too quick to remove God from the equation, my friend.” He took a smug sip of his wine. I scoffed. I expected Alfred to go on his usual patter about how he’d love to run tests on Trilobite in his lab, but he said nothing further.

Barnacles, Trilobite said, are warts on the face of a ship bound for barbarous coasts.

Alfred thinks I have wasted the best years of my career on barnacle penises. I disagree. They are beautiful.

October 29th, 1881

Invited Trilobite to lunch. He wore a suit (one of those novelty dog suits, nevertheless it fit him quite well). Emma prepared herring stew. Despite my objections, she insisted on using the good tablecloth. While discussing why the children couldn’t join (they’re hardly children anymore, but I still see them as such), Emma noticed Trilobite’s plate piled with bones and guts and offered a second serving. “Oh no, Mrs. Darwin, I’m stuffed. I was just saving the best bits for last,” Trilobite said. He scarfed down the bones and guts, splattering pieces onto the tablecloth. Emma scowled at me, and I raised my eyebrows at her to reiterate my initial objection to using the good tablecloth. After dinner, I showed Trilobite my latest purchase. “That Edison fellow’s newest invention,” I said, winding up the phonograph. We sat there in the study, the sound of Beethoven’s Egmont Overture slowly filling up the room.

Music, Trilobite said, is the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae of pleasure.

To read the rest of this story, please consider purchasing a pdf or print copy of issue 7. Purchase options are in the sidebar at right.