Tuesday, September 30, 2008

,,Opop’’ sang a dill bird to a mother tart.

For now, though, a man needs introducing: Dill, meet Burt. Two men in tow then. And each an introduction.

How very good it is to meet you. Oh heavens yes! They both snicker sibilantly at this. ESSESSSESSSESSSESSS. It is a gross, harsh sound. We are repulsed. I am, anyway.

Next day: twins entering a room.

The boys, neither of whom you or I have ever seen, come waddling up. They have cross expressions on their faces, as if a maggot were nibbling importunately on the insides of their cheeks. One of them coughs into a rag he pulls from his pocket, then replaces it once the cough is through. The other does not seem to notice.

A lifetime ago, or so it seems…That is how her stories always begin. She will sit talking to you for hours. Each person, though not enthralled, is at least willing to listen. A lifetime ago I met a man who I couldn’t for the life of me…

As things go on so too do stories. They seem sometimes to persist forever. Interminable things, I often find myself remarking. Not here, though. This will not be one of those stories.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Story with Two Blinks

His arm is intact. He had thought for a moment that it might not be. But it is. He blinks.

On the plate in front of him is a sandwich. He never eats sandwiches. In fact, he hates sandwiches. Why he has one on his plate, then, is the source of some consternation. Did I put it there? he asks himself. And the question, as he puts it to himself, sounds like a rebuke.

He glances down at the floor. He thinks a tile looks out of place. He makes a circle with his forefinger and his thumb, and then peeks through it. His massive eyeball, framed by his fingers, blinks. The tile has not been moved. It is not out of place at all. He lets his hand fall to his thigh.

If someone walked in now and scratched the man on the cheek, he would not blink. He will not blink again for the rest of this story. Twice is enough. Instead, were someone to walk in and scratch his cheek, this man would sit still and impassive. You see, he tries not to let people know that he knows they are there. This has become harder to do of late, though. But he cannot say why this is.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Portrait

Her small, square face juts out in relief against a garish orange. Like a rug under a door, perhaps. In the orange, though, barely perceptible globules form, dripping almost, and they make my eyes blink. She has not swum now for twenty years.

We knew each other once. Her face then was not so square and not nearly so small. She was a great woman then, a proud woman. In any case people used to think of her like that, though I am not sure she ever really was either of those things. Probably not great, and surely not proud. People, though, often get confused about things.

I knew her for a brief time only, but I am certain she would agree with me that that time was more than enough time. People do not know each other for a time and then one day simply stop. It is deliberate. There is some sort of reason. Or else there is real loss. And real loss is too terrible a thing to discuss in histories. So trust that this was not a real loss but instead a parting: deliberate, abrupt, absolute. Until now.

Her face in relief against the orange strikes me as a bit overdone. It is too much. It should not be there. She has no right to have her face like that. But then I have no right, I suppose, to say what are and are not her rights. Or her face’s rights anyway.

In another part of another country I have sat for nearly a decade. People have visited me, and I have received them graciously. We have, for the most part, tolerated one another. Why people visit, though, I have never been able to understand. Until now.

I am here now and I am greeted, dolefully, with a small, square face in relief. It cannot speak, but it is there. It glowers. Its eyes have no reality, none of the horror of the old eyes, but they are there. Globules glowering. And then the background, those too, nearly glowering but not eyes, just globules. There are globules that are shapes and globules that are matter. Her eyes are matter.

She has been set, permanently, there. Her painted visage a sort of rebuke. Garish as the orange, she seems to sneer at me. It is comic, almost. And so I smile. Her face – square and small – remains rigid, jutting out in relief against the orange. And I sit staring up at it, smiling, but also very much afraid.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Feeling Things about Being in a Tunnel

Having been in a tunnel now for something over an hour, Bilp felt it was time to go somewhere else. Then he felt other things. He felt uncertain, for instance, about having felt it was time to go somewhere other than the tunnel he was presently in. He also felt a momentary pang of compunction for something he thought he might have done just before having come into the tunnel. Then he thought other things as well. He thought that there were certain moments when the collapse of something was not necessarily a tragedy. Then he thought that it was not right to think that simply because something collapsed it should therefore constitute a tragedy. Then he tried to think of how he could have ever associated the two – collapse and tragedy. He began associating other things. He associated a long, thin stick of celery with a molar, and this made him laugh. Other things too made him laugh. He laughed at the thought that inside of a tunnel he could still hear himself. He laughed at the fact that there was not a single other person in the tunnel, and how if someone walked in they might think that it was his tunnel. Then he thought about other people thinking. He thought that they might think he was foolish for being there. And then he felt foolish. He felt foolish for being in the tunnel all by himself, and then he remembered. He remembered that he had perhaps felt he ought to leave the tunnel because it would seem foolish if someone were to see him in the tunnel all alone. He felt this for a moment, and then he felt all sorts of other things.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Most Unfortunate Accident

Ipo has a lisp. She split her tongue by accident as a child, and as a result has a lisp. Tongues split when cut, and that is precisely what happened to Ipo’s tongue. She had been eating a sandwich when, for some not entirely certain reason, she tired of eating sandwiches. What else is there to eat? Ipo then asked herself. She glanced around the kitchen and noticed a wood block with black handles sticking out. Tasty, she thought to herself, and walked over to pluck and consume one of the black handles from their wooden holster. It is not difficult to imagine what happened next, so I will not go into all of the details. Suffice it to say that as a result of having cut her tongue, Ipo now has a lisp. And it is to this most unfortunate accident that the title alludes.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A bird chirps in its cage.

1. To him it was precious. Or pretty. He always got those two confused. Maybe it was both. He had only just learned the former. Precious. Things were always precious to him now. Like his little feathered bird. It certainly had all sorts of feathers. And a tongue too. He knew it had a tongue because he could hear it sometimes clucking. Making sounds and acting just like a friend of his. He had never seen it spit, though, and this made him slightly distrustful of the creature.

2. Weeks had passed since she had noticed it. She had not even glanced at it in weeks. But there it was, still, persisting as always in its quiet, unobtrusive way. A chamber is how she thought of it, a bird chamber. Birds, like people, must have chambers. She did not know a single person who did not have some sort of chamber. So why shouldn’t a bird have one too? This, anyway, was her thinking on the matter.

3. There are feathers, variegated, strewn across a sheet of yellow newspaper. He blinked at them, heavily. Then, in an ear of his, the sound of people’s voices. Those voices are not coming from the cage, he thought. The bird can be heard in the cage, faintly. Nothing sounds like the voices of people. They are so rough and unpleasant. So loud. People should really not be allowed to say so very much. Quiet, he thought, would be better than this.

4. There is a daughter too. She has seen the thing but does not know it yet. She sees the bird as she sees all other things. Which is to say she just sees them, actually, before she says them. Once you start saying things then you are no longer really seeing anything at all. She was, the little daughter, still seeing things, but she did not really know it yet. That is, she did not say it yet.

Monday, September 22, 2008

An Anniversary

The two people that this story is about met underneath a squat tree. They shook hands, smiling, and then walked out from under the tree. Neither knew the other’s name at the time, but both were glad to have met the other.

Things persisted like this for some time. People began to see these two together and say things like What a lovely couple or I simply adore those two. Kind things, then, were said about these two, and generally things were thought to be quite fine between them.

Today though, on the anniversary of the day they met under that squat tree, neither one is smiling. Grimacing would perhaps be the better word to describe the contorted faces of each, but surely not smiling. They are no longer holding hands, and nobody is commenting on the loveliness of either. People pass by and look at them, but instead of adoration for the felicitous pair, they feel an ineffable sadness.

This pair, though, is not yet aware that their smiles have turned to grimaces. They think that things must probably be fine, and that what they are feeling is probably not quite right. Thus, as happens in so many couplings, the two will celebrate many more anniversaries before, at last, they no longer have to suffer each other any longer.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Impolitic Man

In a journal of some slight renown a man published an article titled The Impolitic Man. People, being averse to all things impolitic, neglected the article. For decades it went unread. Then one day the author died. This was noted in another journal of equally slight renown. More people read this, though, than had read The Impolitic Man. It is not certain how the author would have reacted to this fact.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Thurle and Trill

The movie had been for the most part a bricolage of human gestures, or so said the review Thurle had read of it in a magazine in which he was wont to read about such things. Thurle saw the movie and thought the reviewer was absolutely right – it had been, for the most part, a bricolage of human gestures. When asked later by a woman Thurle was involved with – Trill – what he thought of the film, he had responded It was, more or less, a bricolage of human gestures. Ah, she had responded. Yes. Ok. I see. She did not, however, actually see what Thurle was talking about. Trill rarely did see what it was Thurle was talking about, and it was precisely this that made him so appealing to her: he was inscrutable, mysterious, etc., or so she thought.

As we know, however, Thurle read somewhere that the movie had been, for the most part, a bricolage of human gestures. Thus when he told Trill – much to Trill’s delight – that the film had been, for the most part, a bricolage of human gestures, he had been borrowing another man’s words. Trill, then, very much impressed by the seeming profundity of her lover’s words, had in fact been listening to the words of another man. Who, then, does Trill really love, and for how much longer can it possibly last?

Thurle, for his part, will continue reading various magazines and books in search of inscrutable things to say to Trill, and Trill, for her part, well I cannot say for certain what she will do. Perhaps someday Trill will come across one of these comments written down in a magazine or book she happens to pick up and will then think to herself Wait, wait. Didn’t Thurle say just exactly that only the other day? Wait. Wait! Perhaps, then, she will discover for herself the source of her man’s inscrutability. But likely not. Inscrutability is one of the most tiresome traits in a lover, and it is likely that, in the end, Trill will simply tire of Thurle, with all his insight and wisdom and inscrutability.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Gip was a sort of drooping figure. His back sagged. His cheeks and eyes sagged. Even his words seemed to sag. Everything about Gip, in short, seemed to be sagging and drooping in some way.

To survive, Gip, like most, made money. He did this in a variety of ways. One day he would be skulking along a street, for instance, and he would chance upon something that at one point must have resembled a desk. It now resembled something else entirely, and thus Gip would set his sagging frame down next to it and ask people walking by if they would perhaps like to buy a paddle or broom or mound or shelf or whatever it was he thought that person looked as if they might enjoy purchasing. Gip had found that all a thing needed in order to sell was a man nearby selling it, and he nearly always found customers for his found goods.

Gip did other things to make money too, like carrying things for someone in need of their things being carried or speaking about something in an informed manner to whomever needed something informing said to them or simply submitting his body to be poked and prodded by someone in need of a body to poke and prod. Gip, then, like most, made money.

He did all sorts of other things too, of course. He showed up at various places and then subsequently would leave. He would eat supper amongst groups of other people, or sometimes just by himself. He made plans and concerned himself with current events and even sometimes formed romantic attachments. All of these things, as well as a good many other things, were things that Gip did.

The story of Gip, then, is really like the story of anyone else. He was a man who sagged and drooped, yes, but he was also a man that made money and ate things and occasionally formed romantic attachments. He liked certain things, as we all do, just as he disliked certain things. To mention that he was a sagging, drooping figure was a mistake, I fear, for it may have, for a moment anyway, indicated that he was in some way unique. Gip is not at all unique, and I apologize if for even an instant he made that impression.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


A part had by many people. Some no doubt do not. Others only barely so. They are mentioned often enough, or at least were in the past. Now hardly ever, hardly at all. Now not often enough, in any case.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Chronicler and his Chronicle

A chronicle of a time not too terribly long ago. A man setting down to compose it, to draft it. He is older than most men. Also he has refused to speak for a number of years. People try to speak with him but he, for his part, will not speak to them.

When composing or drafting a chronicle one must be certain about certain things. Details, for instance, must be exact, and opinions must be contextualized. This man, the chronicler, knows all this, he having been professionally trained to competently carry out such a task. This should, then, inspire confidence in us, the reader of the chronicle, if ever we are to read the thing. Since the likelihood of this happening is slight, however, it does not seem appropriate to continue discussing the chronicler or his chronicle any further.

Monday, September 15, 2008


IN his haste to sing the song he had come to sing he forgot several of its lyrics. The part about the young girl, for instance, was entirely omitted, as was the line about them rising at dawn. A few people may have noticed, but if they did nobody seemed to mind much. When he walked off stage he gave a short, clipped bow. Like the song’s lyrics, this gesture was hardly noticed.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

One Afternoon at Chaim’s

Oh and up into nostrils the offal scent went. The artist’s face – sneering, crooked, flat – seemed little more than a collection of holes, of dots. He had had for months too much of the stuff. All over the carpet. Thick mounds all over the carpet.

A man was coming over. He had not met the man. Nor had the man met him. To meet the man he took into his mouth sips large and small of whatever he could find. Thick sips of sweet and thick and horrible, sips that made his lips sputter or whistle or smack. Each sip a miniature cataclysm.

Racks or rows of the things. Tall but at the bottom steeped – like everything here – in thick mounds of the wet hot wet stuff. Thick heaping mounds, dried in parts, but wet, mostly wet. All over the carpet! He with his mouth and throat and chest gasped. A finger of his scratched a leg of his and a small fleshy wound began again to seep.

When the man came he was naturally overcome. He with his shirt covered the two tiny nostrils on his face. My god. My god! He glanced around him and at the rows and racks and looked somehow above the heaping mounds all over the bottoms and all over the carpet and he looked and with his eyes became for a moment more overcome. He gasped too with the parts that one gasps with and he, removing his shirt from the two tiny holes for a moment, declared I must have them.

They are now on display in a home the stranger owns just outside of Philadelphia.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Just hardly ever at all.

Just hardly ever at all. That was a response one man made when asked by a woman Do you still love me? Other responses could have been made, though. Which is to say that other men have made other responses to women who have asked that very same question: Do you still love me? This one man’s response was probably as good as any though.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

On Considering Things

Mark had been considering a good number of things for a good number of minutes. It is said that if one considers something for even a limited number of minutes one can come away from that something having considered nearly all there is to consider about it. If that is true then it would seem that Mark had considered nearly all one could consider about a good number of things. This was not, however, the case. Mark knew next to nothing about anything, and though he considered a good number of things for a good number of minutes, he never came close to considering much about any of those things. And that, I suppose, is simply the way some people are: always considering something, but never really considering much about it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Daphne and Sir Pole

Sir Pole really had no reason to be called Sir at all. Or rather no official reason. He introduced himself as such, that was all.

A woman named Daphne had once been in love with Sir Pole. She had found him refined and tall. Those two qualities, then, were her criteria for finding a man suitable to love: refined and tall. Her friends opposed what they saw as her unsubstantiated adoration, and would condemn her privately every chance they had. Sure he’s refined and tall, they would say, but so what? I know plenty of tall fellows who are, more or less, refined. And other things too! Daphne never paid much mind to what her friends said.

This love affair lasted only a brief time. One day Sir Pole ran into a friend of Daphne’s, and a horrible revelation was made to him: Daphne loved him. Me? he asked incredulously. Are you sure? The friend assured him that she was absolutely sure. Sir Pole, thinking the whole thing over for a moment, said Well I can understand that. Makes perfect sense.

From that moment on Sir Pole snubbed Daphne. When she would come over to his modest apartment and request an interview, Sir Pole would slip a small sheet of paper under his door that read Not at all well. Sometime, perhaps, later. Daphne never protested these rebukes, but instead walked dejectedly away. One day, though, she saw Sir Pole on the street and ran over to him. Sir! Sir Pole! How are you? Sir Pole, stunned by having to confront this pathetic creature, began fumbling through his pockets. Eventually he landed upon a small slip of paper and handed it to Daphne. She read the familiar note and her face fell. She handed the slip back to Sir Pole and turned and walked dejectedly away.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

He took some comfort in knowing that he had said it first – he had said the joke first. Nobody had responded, but he had said it – aloud, for them all to admire, yet none had done so. Then, moments later, seconds really, the other man, a taller, finer looking man, says the same joke, nearly word for word, and the crowd adores it. They fawn and laugh and feel comfortable around the man who has just made this devastatingly amusing joke, and meanwhile the man who had actually said it, or rather who had said it first, is standing alone under his umbrella wondering to himself Did they hear what I said? Did they hear that that’s just exactly what I said?

They had, in fact, heard, but like so many of the things that this premier jokester said, they felt awkward about it. Is he trying to be amusing? one woman asked herself. Had she asked this aloud, perhaps, the man would have told her that Yes, yes I was attempting to be amusing, for I am an amusing fellow. Watch, I’ll prove it. In just a few moments someone else will repeat what I’ve said and the others, all the others including yourself, will find the man’s joke, which is to say my joke, devastatingly amusing. He would, perhaps, have said this to the woman, but she didn’t ask her question aloud but instead only to herself. Is he trying to be amusing? she asked. Is he amusing?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Midge and the Fisherman

He had a face on that Midge described as sour. Midge was a spinster. She had all sorts of ideas about people’s faces. His, she was certain, was sour.

For fourteen years Midge had known the man with the sour face. She had fed him and lodged him and kept herself occupied with the things he did to occupy himself. He is a great fisherman, she would tell all her friends, though he never once had told her anything about him having gone fishing. She had seen him leave early one morning with a tackle box under his arm, and ever since has told her friends all about his fishing prowess. Fishing did not interest Midge’s friends much though, and neither did her lodger, for that matter, so speaking with Midge, or rather being a friend of Midge’s, was generally avoided.

In any case Midge cared a great deal about faces. Faces, she would say, tell you everything about a person. Though she had received no formal training as a physiognomist, she had developed an amateur system for categorizing and condemning the various faces that she met. A thoroughly furrowed brow, for instance, signified tolerable breeding, while a mole condemned one to a depraved caste of untouchables. Her lodger had neither of these characteristics, but he did have something – Midge was never quite certain what – that betrayed a certain sourness of disposition. This too she liked to discuss at great lengths with her friends.

Midge, though, is growing old, and it is becoming clear – to the lodger at least – that she will not be renting out a room for much longer. The lodger, then, sets out early in the mornings with his gloves on and a large, tin tackle box in hand, determined to find a place to live once Midge is no longer around. It is not totally clear why he takes his tackle box with him on these excursions.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Nonetheless, nonetheless, muttered the official under his breath. Nonetheless. His head was shaking back and forth in small sharp sudden bursts. Nonetheless.

A few moments prior another official – taller, rounder, of slightly redder complexion, etc. – had whispered something into our official’s ear. This not-yet-muttering official’s eyes bulged noticeably as the other, taller official’s lips hotly caressed his ear. What? he might have thought, or Damnit no! Any number of things, really, might have raced through our official’s mind as the other, rounder official whispered we know not what into his ear, but the result of whatever was whispered is, as you know, known – it provoked our official to go about, head shaking in sudden, violent bursts, muttering Nonetheless, nonetheless, nonetheless.