Monday, June 1, 2009

A German, a Cliff, and Two Bow Ties

The German’s name is Jean-Luc. He is running toward a cliff. Then, comically, he trips. He gets up, dusts off one bow tie, then dusts off another. Satisfied with his appearance, he resumes running toward the cliff. Jean-Luc, the German, flies off the cliff and plummets to his death.

Seven people are saddened when they hear that he jumped off a cliff, but none of them allow the news to ruin their day.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mandrake the Complacent



Mandrake had always known he was better than most of the others. One day, as Mandrake walked down the street, an older man asked him how he had come to know this. Mandrake thought to himself: I am not any smarter than the others, or any taller, or any funnier. I am not more capable of making friends, or of kissing girls, or of gaining power. I am not any better at sports, nor am I any better at adding or subtracting. I cannot spell very well, and I know that my breath smells rather badly. I cannot paint a picture, and the essays I write are always only fair. I do not have as much money as many of the others, nor the desire to acquire any more than I have.

And at this point Mandrake looked up at the older man and said: I’m not quite sure how I have come to know it, sir, but I have.

Satisfied with his answer, Mandrake nods at the man and continues walking down the street.

Friday, May 29, 2009

A Phone Conversation

He tried calling her but she didn’t pick up. Hurt, he tried calling somebody else. She did pick up. She said, “Who are you?” And so he explained who he was. They hadn’t met, he explained, but imagine if they had. She had trouble imagining such a meeting. “What do you look like?” she asked. He couldn’t really say. This was of no help to the lady. Growing frustrated, she explained that she had to go. The man understood, and the two discontinued their conversation.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mollusk




Mollusk sat alone in his room smoking. He didn’t have any windows, naturally, so the air became quite thick with smoke. If he extended his arm out in front of himself he could hardly make out his hand. Mollusk didn’t mind this, for he had always been embarrassed of his hand, and this impression, though he knew it to be false, brought Mollusk a small amount of joy.

Then somebody knocked on Mollusk’s door. “Yes,” Mollusk said as flatly as he could.

“May I come in?” It was his roommate.

“Of course not.”

After a moment, the roommate’s feet could be heard walking slowly from Mollusk’s door.

Mollusk hadn’t been outside in four days. He had left his room, of course, but not his building. After four days of being inside one tends to forget why one has decided to stop going outside in the first place. Or at least this was the case with Mollusk. On his fourth day of confinement Mollusk couldn’t say why it was he had decided to stay indoors. He tried to think of the reason, but like most things Mollusk tried to do, he failed. So, giving up on determining the reason, Mollusk decided he would sit smoking in his room until he could think of something better to do with himself.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Inside of a Room




There are benches inside of this room, and a bar. Two women are seated at the bar. One of them is wearing something the other finds unattractive. She does not tell the woman this, however. In fact, she says, “You look so attractive in that dress.” The other woman, not as stupid as she is unfashionable, says, “Thank you,” but she doesn’t mean it. Truthfully, she resents having to say it.

On one of the benches sits a man named Rut. There is another man sitting next to him. They are strangers. Rut considers trying to speak with the man, but then remembers that he doesn’t enjoy speaking with strangers. He is silent. After a while the man turns to Rut and says, “Excuse me.” But Rut, having already recalled that he doesn’t enjoy speaking with strangers, remains silent. The man turns from Rut with a sigh. Why are people in rooms always so rude? he asks himself. Then he stands up and walks over to the bar where he eavesdrops on the women’s conversation as he orders another drink.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pins, Boxes, and Thumbs

Alfred Pin was not a curious man. His brother Franklin Pin wasn’t either. The Pins were simply not a curious family. Their neighbors, Pug and Brute Box, often commented on the Pins’ lack of curiosity. “Don’t you think it’s odd,” Pug would start to say to Brute, “how incurious the Pins are?”

“Yes,” Brute would reply, “I do.”

This engendered a certain animosity between the neighbors.

Across the street from both the Pins and the Boxes lived the Thumbs. The Thumbs didn’t bother with neighborhood politics. As a result, everybody on the block hated the Thumbs.

Alice Thumb, the Thumbs’ youngest daughter, is in the same class as both a Pin boy and a Box boy. These two boys, one incurious, the other slightly less so, are both madly in love with Alice. This, though, is really of no interest to this story. Which raises this somewhat troubling question: What is? And, lacking any very convincing answer to this, I will discontinue the story here.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Polymath, IV

An actress decided she would become a poet, so she took out a pad of paper and a pen and tried to decide upon the subject of her first poem. Nothing came to mind, so she decided she didn’t really want to be a poet any longer. She was going to become a pianist instead. No one she knew owned a piano though, so this was out of the question. She would become a painter, then. She went to the store and bought tubes and tubes of paint, a dozen brushes, one easel, and three white canvases. By the time she had purchased all these supplies, lugged them all home, set up her newly purchased easel, etc., she was exhausted. “Perhaps I’ll paint tomorrow,” she said aloud, though nobody else was around. The next day, however, the actress had lost all desire to paint, and so decided for the time being she would continue to be an actress.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Most Fun We Had All Day


I took this woman to a museum. Before we left, she said, “You know I don’t like museums.” I did not know this. Nonetheless, I thought she might like this one. “I doubt it,” she said, and then we set off for the museum.

When we got there the price of admission was slightly higher than I had promised her it would be. I paid the difference. We proceeded to the exhibit I thought might most interest her. It did not. Not even a little? I asked. “No, not even a little.”

Then we went to another wing of the museum. She didn’t care for it either. I asked if she’d like to leave. “Yes, of course.” So we left.

Once outside, I asked her what she might like to do. “I don’t know,” was her response. I asked if she was hungry. She was sort of hungry. Do you want to go to a restaurant? “Not if it’s expensive.” I knew the perfect place.

I took her to a restaurant downtown. We sat down and opened our menus. It was more expensive than I recalled it having been. I asked her if it was too much. “Yes, but it’s fine.” I stared down at my menu. The waiter finally came and we ordered our meals. She ordered a cup of soup. That was all. Are you sure? I asked her. “Yes.”

After our meal I suggested we go to a park. Those are free, after all, I joked. She didn’t seem amused. We walked to a park. “It’s too hot,” she said. Yes, I agreed, it was too hot. Would you like to go to a bar? I asked. “Sure.” We went to a bar.

After a great deal of time at the bar we were both somewhat drunk. She began laughing at certain things I was saying, though not many, and only rarely at the things I thought were amusing. Rather abruptly she said, “Let’s go home.” I acquiesced, imagining it to be the end of a rather unpleasant day, but was surprised to discover that she meant we ought to go home together. So we did, and it was the most fun we had all day.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Flann and Brian




Flann owes Brian a favor. Brian, intending to collect this favor, says to Flann, “Don’t you owe me a favor?”

Flann denies owing Brian a favor, and since Brian is a coward, he says, “My mistake. I’m sorry.”

“That’s ok,” Flann says, and he casts Brian a sympathetic smile.

Friday, May 22, 2009

9 Things You Should Know

1.

Phalanx, a man of no real importance, arises. He looks about the room he is in. There is a woman sleeping on the bed next to him. What is your name? he asks. Lull, she replies.

2.

Lull comes from a family of eight children. When her oldest brother married, he asked his sister Lull to move in with him and his wife. She complied, but did so with some reservations.

3.

One evening Phalanx decided to get drunk. He went to a bar called Mudd’s. He got drunk.

4.

Lull’s reservations proved groundless. Living with her brother was as miserable as she could have hoped.

5.

Phalanx met Lull in another bar, this one without a name. They talked for several minutes, then agreed that they ought to go home with one another. Lull couldn’t take this man to her brother’s, so they agreed to go to Phalanx’s.

6.

At one point Lull asked Phalanx what his name was. Embarrased, Phalanx refused to answer. Lull didn’t press the issue.

7.

Lull’s brother’s wife is named Agent. Agent has been having an affair with a man named Treasury. Treasury is Phalanx’s neighbor. They have never met.

8.

When Lull was four one of her sisters died. She was fine with this.

9.

Lull leaves Phalanx’s shortly after being asked her name. She walks home. It is not a far walk but she is tired.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Been, né Ben

Been, né Ben, had once been full of promise. Of late, however, what latent promise there may have been within Been seems to have completely dried up. Others had been suggesting for some time that this might happen were he, Been, not to take some sort of action against this lamentable possibility, but he had disregarded these people. And now Been, a man once so full of promise, sits alone in his room grinning at just how silly the others and he had been for ever seeing anything of promise within his now patently unpromising self.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Recollections of a Person I Once Knew




A man takes out a small pad of paper and a pen. He writes:

I miss the whorl of her left ear. I think.

Then he sets his pen down. Was that what he missed? He takes his pen back up.

I miss the dots on her face. Or the ones on her back.

He puts his pen down. He can’t recall which dots he misses, or even if he misses any of her dots at all. He glances at the pen. Then he tears the sheet of paper off the pad and crumples it in his hand. He tosses it onto the ground. On a fresh sheet he writes:

There isn’t anything I miss. About her.

But was this true? He couldn’t say for sure. He writes:

Probably.

Then he shakes his head.

Certainly.

Still not satisfied, he writes:

There is likely something. There is always something.

He sets his pen down. He takes his pen back up.

Not always. But in this case. It seems likely.

He tears the sheet of paper off the pad. He folds it into a small, angular shape. He places it in his mouth. With his pen he writes upon a fresh sheet of paper:

I’ve forgotten almost everything.

He seems satisfied with this. He places his pen next to the pad and stands up. He hasn’t been outside today. He decides to go peek out his front door. He does so. Then he does a number of other things, none of which have anything to do with recollecting others.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Taking an Elveator Together

She stood beside him in the elevator. He reached his hand out and touched hers. “My god!” she gasped. “He just touched me!” There wasn’t anyone else in the elevator. He reminded her that it was impolite to refer to someone in the third person when he or she was present. She consented to this, though mentioned that she’d prefer he not try to touch her hand again. He assured her that he would try not to, though he mentioned that he could not always control such things. She consented to the reasonableness of this assertion with a nod.

Although the rest of the elevator ride was filled with tension, nothing actually happened between the two. She got off on the 24th floor, he on the 26th.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Discomfort of Squatting




In order to see through the keyhole, the man was forced to squat. This caused him great discomfort, for the man rarely squatted. He began thinking about this discomfort as he peered through the keyhole. My thighs, he thought to himself, are experiencing a great deal of discomfort. My knees, he moaned to himself, are not at all in a relaxed position. Thoughts such as these ran through the mind of our hero, the one who is shown above, the one who is squatting so as to peer through a keyhole. After a while, two minutes and thirteen seconds, say, these thoughts become so overwhelming that the man, our hero, forgets why he is looking through the keyhole at all. Or rather he doesn’t forget exactly, but instead becomes aware of the fact that he doesn’t have any idea what he is supposed to be looking at as he peers through the keyhole. As a result the man stands up, quickly shakes out his legs, and then continues down the hall to his room.

Friday, May 15, 2009

One Conversation, the Details of Which Are Recorded Here, Amidst a Number of Different Characters

Conrad had met Gershman through Rowley. Rowley is a conductor. He conducts all sorts of things. Gershman, a technician, resents this, while Conrad, a librarian, is indifferent to this fact. Gersham and Conrad are friends, or rather they spend a good deal of time together. Rowley doesn’t care for either Conrad or Gershman, though he does take some pride in having introduced the two. A fourth and unrelated person, Ellman, is an arborist. His wife is named Boyle. They enjoy bathing, sitting, and sleeping. Boyle’s having an affair with a man named Butler. Butler enjoys sipping, chewing, and swallowing. He owns two boats but never boards either. Butler is hydrophobic. When it rains, Butler walks beneath an umbrella. Some people find this strange, but they are surely in the minority. One member of this small class of people, Thornton, sleeps in a room without windows. He finds this a suitable enough arrangement and only rarely complains. The woman who rents Thronton this room, Richard, she has a son named Howe. Howe is bald. He remembers how one time long ago he had let one of his fingernails grow longer than all the others. When someone noticed this, Howe grew so terribly ashamed that he nibbled the whole thing off. The person who noticed was a woman. Her name is Parkman. She is married to Thurber, a ne’er-do-well, and he is a friend of Isaiah’s, a dentist. Dentists are respectable people, though they occasionally make friends with reprobates. One reprobate, Toole, was stalking a woman named Ford. He liked her very much, or rather he liked following her very much. One day she spoke to him. The details of the conversation weren’t recorded. The content of another conversation, however, has been recorded. It was between Charles and George, two very old friends.


C: George, good to see you.

G: I suppose it is, yes.


And that was the conclusion of their conversation. George’s wife, Antonia, slept with Charles once. George does not know this. Charles thinks about it all the time. Antonia has forgotten that it ever happened. She is a drunk, and her memory is not quite what it might otherwise be. She likes to drink gin. So does her friend, Eliot. Eliot is living with Madox at present, though they are no longer sharing a bed. Madox has to wake up early and Eliot hates having to get up before noon. So does Franz, a man from Albuquerque. He likes sleeping, blinking, and watching others move about. His cousin, Greene, owns a boutique cheese store in a small town somewhere. His neighbor’s name is Edmund, but he prefers that people call him ‘dmund. When pressed for the reason why he prefers this nickname, he always responds, “Because I do.” People, accepting creatures that they are, tolerate this response. And this is precisely why people are such boring things, and precisely why we will stop discussing them any further.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

H.B. Isgood

H.B. Isgood wanted to find out what they had done with the girl. Had they taken her to their place up the coast? Or had they stowed her away in one of their cheap clubs downtown?

Then all sorts of other thoughts began trickling through H.B.’s mind, and he soon forgot all about the girl.

She was never found.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Minding Someone Else's Presence

As a result of having lost his shoes, Frederick’s feet hurt him a great deal. He wants to sit down. This is only natural. There is no bench in sight, however, so Frederick must continue walking. Finally, after a number of quite painful steps, Frederick comes upon a bench. It is occupied. Frederick speaks:

“Would you mind if I sat down next to you.”

The woman seated on the bench looks over Frederick.

“Where are your shoes?”

“I’ve lost them, I’m afraid.”

“That was foolish of you.”

Frederick admits that it was foolish of him and then repeats his initial question.

The woman says that she would, in fact, mind. She says that she was taught never to trust a man without shoes, never to trust a man that asks to sit down on a bench next to you, and never to trust a man who is known to do foolish things. Frederick thinks about this for a moment. Then he says, “Yes, I suppose you’re right. I would mind me sitting next to me too.” And, not having much more to say to this woman, Frederick, on pained feet, sets off to find an unoccupied bench.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A short story involving a caper

“Will you pass the salad please?”

“There is a caper in it."

“Never mind then.”

They ate the rest of their meal in silence.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Fillip the Talker

A man approached him. “Hello,” he said.

Fillip, for that was what he was called, responded, “Hello.” He was amazed at the presumptuousness of this response. Fillip did not typically let himself go in such a manner. He blushed.

“I was wondering,” the man began, “if you knew of a place where I might buy an umbrella.”

“Over there,” Fillip blurted out. What was happening? he thought to himself. What am I saying? How dare I!

“Thank you very much,” the man said.

“You’re welcome,” said Fillip. The gall! The nerve! The aplomb!

So as not to offend anyone else, Fillip put his head down and walked home before he offended anyone else with his presumptuousness.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Being Bothered


Not knowing what a boat was, she wasn’t bothered by the fact that she had never ridden in one. Other things, though, bothered her terribly. Her son, for instance. He was a painter. This, to her, was a bothersome fact. Brushing her teeth bothered her, as did forgetting words she had once known. She detested the company of others, as she did the company of very nearly all living things (cats in particular). She never expressed any of this to anyone, however. She never betrayed a hint of her disgust towards any of it until, one day, her son captured her in a portrait. The result is shown above.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Blind Date



Sue, a woman, meets Paul, a man. “Hello,” says the woman to the man.

“Hello,” responds the man.

Then, after about 46 seconds of standing and staring at one another, the man turns his back on the woman.

“What was that for?” she asks.

But the man, having his back turned to the woman, does not hear what she says.

After about 23 seconds of this, the woman extends her hand and taps the man on the shoulder. He turns around. “Paul?” she asks.

“Yes.”

“My name is Sue.”

“Yes. I figured.”

Sue nods. 46 seconds pass. Sue turns her back on Paul.

“It seems only fair,” he says. Paul waits approximately 23 seconds, then extends his hand and taps her on the shoulder. She turns around. “Sue,” he says.

“Yes.”

“This is becoming rather tiresome, wouldn’t you agree?”

“I could stand another 46 seconds of it or so.”

Paul nods in agreement. The two stand staring at each other for roughly 46 seconds, and then both turn their backs on the other and walk away.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Architects Really Ought To Know How To Swim

He put on his yellow hat. It was his because he had borrowed it from a friend long ago and never given it back. The friend, no longer in contact with the man who just put on what used to be his own yellow hat, has forgotten that he ever owned such a hat. To complicate matters, the original owner of the hat, the former friend who has forgotten all about the yellow hat, never really cared much for the hat. Now, the man who has just put on the yellow hat, the one who the hat, arguably, belongs to now, he decides he no longer cares for the hat either. He takes it off and sets it on a chair. The chair is blue. He bought it at a garage sale three summers ago. The former owner was a cop. The cop had purchased the chair from an architect. The architect had actually designed the chair himself, though he was unhappy with the results. As a result of this unhappiness, his blue chair, the architect’s, now has a yellow hat sitting atop it.

The architect died in a boating accident. He saw a fish in the water, leapt in after it, recalled that he had never learned to swim, and then drowned. It was deemed a tragedy by his family, an unfortunate accident by his colleagues, and a minor if somewhat comical event to everybody else. His boat, the architect’s, was designed by a man named Benson. Benson collected frogs. His favorite frog was named Tile. Tile was from Brazil. Benson thought Tile might mean something in Portugeuse, but he never bothered to check.

The architect was born in Portugal. His wife was not. She is a widow now, though she no longer wears black. In fact, her friends have been impressed by the range of color she has introduced into her wardrobe. One friend in particular, Peg, thinks that she looks ten years younger as a result of the colorful garments she has adopted.

Peg was herself adopted. Her real name is Leg. Leg was born to two Guatemalan immigrants living in Ridgefield Park, NJ. They commuted to work and were deeply, if dispassionately, in love with one another. When Leg came along, they decided they ought to give her up. When they brought her to the adoption agency they dressed her in an orange dress. “Here,” they said, handing over Leg. The woman at the agency looked at them suspiciously. “What’s her name?” “Leg,” they replied, but the woman at the agency misheard. “Peg, that’s a nice name, my sister’s named Peg.”

Peg, the sister, is malnourished. She looks terrible. Her cheeks are sunken and colorless, her eyes are bulging nearly out of her head, and her breasts have shriveled to nothing but nipples, little drooping gray buttons that stain the bars of her chest. She is tired too, all the time. She can’t ever seem to sleep enough. Her husband, Lisbon, works inside of a massive machine. When people ask him what he does he says, “I work inside of a massive machine,” and generally people nod at this response as if it were a reasonable explanation, which it is. The machine that Lisbon works inside of is owned by a fellow with a peculiar gait. People are always commenting on the peculiarity of his gait. His response:

Yes, I know, but that’s simply the way I was made.

People always shake their head at this as if it were an unreasonable response, which it is. He then drops his head in shame and shuffles off, fleeing from the unsympathetic eyes of the others. It is all really quite sad.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cloid


Cloid, like most people, owns a jacket. He, unlike most people, never takes it off. This is the single remarkable fact about an otherwise wholly unremarkable man.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Admiring Joseph

Joseph ate a small sandwich, stood up, walked to a museum, perused briefly the various things on display, left the museum, walked to a bench, sat down, and is, at this very moment, still seated.

A small group gathers about Joseph. They are all struck by something about him, though none of them are able to say exactly what that something is. One woman suggests that it is something in his eyes, but the others agree that that isn’t quite it.

Joseph stands up. The group emits a collective gasp. Joseph speaks:

It’s my hair you idiots!

Of course! They all shout. Of course!

And then the group disperses, and Joseph begins his walk home.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Gob of Gumjuice on the Roof of a Polite Man’s Mouth

A small gob of gumjuice is stuck to the surface of a polite man’s mouth. He doesn’t know what to do. He considers asking for help, but then realizes how ridiculous he would sound. Polite people do not like sounding ridiculous, so the man doesn’t ask anyone for help. As a result he dies, or at least is forgotten, for polite people always either die foolishly or are forgotten.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Names


She had several children by several different men. She named each one after her previous lover. When the children discovered this they were outraged. “Mother,” they all shouted. “Mother!” All except, of course, the first born, for he had never been given a name.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Beginning with a beach and a man, other things emerge until finally, after a brief period, everything recedes.

A man appears on a beach. He is troubled by this arrival. He had not known that he was going to arrive at a beach. He had anticipated arriving at an entirely different place. An apartment, for instance. But instead he has arrived on a beach.

He looks about himself, surprised, probably, or at least feeling some sort of feeling, melancholy, perhaps, or glee or spite or total indifference; in any case, he looks about himself and something about this, about the way he looks about, some grimace or twitch or squint of his eye, betrays, it seems, some emotion, though which one, as has been stated, is not entirely clear.

A man on a beach. He is standing there, medium height, brown hair, etc., and there are waves crashing, gulls swooning, clouds drifting, people mulling, etc., and inside of the mind of this man there are thoughts going, thoughts stopping, thoughts emerging and receding and etc etc, and all of these things are happening, and all of these things are happening on a beach, and the beach hadn’t been anticipated, by whom? by the man, and on and on and on.

A man is standing on the beach. He is not tall. Why would he be? A man on a beach is not necessarily a tall man, nor, for that matter, need he necessarily be a short man. He is just a man on a beach, standing. And something happens to him when he is standing. A woman approaches him, say, or a dog. We will go with the former. A woman approaches the man who is standing on the beach.

“Hello,” the woman says.

The man looks at her. He did not anticipate having to talk to a woman. This troubles him, probably, or perhaps it delights him. In any case, he responds:

“Yes?”

“I was wondering,” she begins, but then cannot go any further for she had not in fact been wondering anything at all. “Never mind,” she says after a time.

The man nods his head. “I wonder…” he begins. Then, finally, “…too.”

The woman smiles. She likes the man – the way that he looks, his clothes, his hair, his teeth (though she hasn’t seen them, his teeth, but she assumes that were she to see them, were she to inspect them one by one, she’d probably, in all likelihood, like them). She tries to think of something to say. “Where were you before?” she asks.

The man looks at her but does not smile. She is pretty, he thinks, and then he turns his eyes
away. “I think I’d rather not say.”

“No,” she says, “I wouldn’t either.”

Then suddenly he decides that he would rather say. “I was not here.”

“Why not?” she asks.

But he doesn’t know.

Growing tired of trying to sustain a conversation, they invite another person to join them, a child, but the child refuses. Then they look at each other.

“What would you like to talk about?” one of them asks. But the other has no suggestions. “Should we part?” one asks. And the other readily concludes that yes, they should part. So these two, this man and this woman, part from each other having said nothing, or in any case not much worth noting, for neither is capable of thinking of a single thing that they might, were they to stand about and try, be able to talk about with the other. And that is how I feel sometimes with you, like I have absolutely nothing at all to talk about.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

M.N. Drake, a Pretty Interesting Character

Instead of petals they should have almonds. Or so M. N. Drake thought. M.N. had all sorts of thoughts. He had other things too. Like a belt and a collar and two shoes and a few books and a table and a bed and a small but suitable lamp and a mother and a sound constitution and an appetite that was often satiated and a diploma from a not terribly prestigious university and a love for walks and a contempt for cats and other things too, plenty of other things, too many, in fact, to mention here. So M.N. Drake, as you can see, is a pretty interesting character.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Limitations of Not Having Much of a Forehead

A man without much of a forehead tries to smile. He is unable to. He then tries to wink, which he is also unable to do. Finally, the man without much of a forehead tries to speak. Before he begins, however, he tries to think of something he might want to say. Not being able to think of anything, he remains silent. It is still uncertain whether this man without much of a forehead is capable of speech or not.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

An Excerpt from Limb’s Notebook

First, a duck approaches a man. What happens next is uncertain, but what happens after whatever it is that just happened is known. It is this: a woman, being mistaken for a duck, is approached by a man. It is at this point that more uncertainty creeps into our narrative, but we do know what follows: a pair of men, both ducks, try to become women. This proves disastrous. People and ducks are hurt in the process. And feelings. Feelings are hurt and nothing changes. The men are still men and the ducks still ducks and the women are still mistaken for ducks.

These words, or words like them, were found in the notebook of Limb. Limb, as has been noted elsewhere, is a sad, lonely man. As a result most of the men, women, and ducks that inhabit his tales are sad and lonely too.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Courteous And Discourteous Paintings



Whenever he began painting he would try to think of a word. Unfortunately each time he did this he thought of the same word: courtesy. As a result most of his pictures focused on courteous subjects: pots, pans, kitchen sinks, table clothes, forks, a vase, hand towels, etc. For some reason the idea of courtesy, for this particular painter, was bound up with kitchen objects. He had 24 canvases of the same courteous plate, for instance, and 15 of a courteous napkin. He painted courteous milk glasses and courteous waiters, courteous aprons and courteous straws, courteous spoons and knives and corks and bibs, all sorts of courteous culinary things spread out across countless canvases. Then one day the painter hit upon another word: discourtesy. What resulted was an array of canvases featuring misplaced forks (one, for instance, rested atop a piano) or sullied aprons (a bright splash of blue tarnished an otherwise immaculate checkered top) or clogged kitchen sinks (an owl, it seems, got stuck in one, and a human ear in another) or spilled glasses or handle-less pans or torn table clothes. Critics of his work (the few friends he had managed not to drive away, his mother, a roommate, etc.) found the discourteous pieces more engaging, though, they all agreed, not quite as pleasant as his previous work. Frustrated, the painter tried coming up with another word. He failed to come up with one, however, and as a result has stopped painting altogether.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Lacking the Inclination to Write a Fifth Act, A Play in Four

I.


A man, unhappy, unwraps a bandage from around his head.


II.


A woman, in glasses, eats a sandwich. When she is finished with her meal, she lets out a soft, noisome belch. She looks about to see if anyone has overseen this, or worse, smelt it, but nobody else is in the room. She lets out a slight sigh, noisome still from the lingering burp.


III.


Over the telephone, the man from I speaks to the woman from II.

M: How was your sandwich?

W (blushing): I’d rather not talk about it.

A silence persists for some time. The man tries to think of something to say but cannot. The woman is still concerned that someone might have overseen/smelt her belch. Then, suddenly, the woman remembers something.

W: And your bandage?

M: I managed it.

Again silence. The two never have much to say to one another.


IV.


Not wanting to bring in any other characters and not having much more to say about either of these two, this story will conclude here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Coming from the Cottage, Slope Finds Herself in a Stroller

A stroller was being strolled down the street. The woman inside the stroller was called Slope. She worked for a grocer named Stan. Stan was a vicious, cruel man. He had lost all his fingernails in a game of UNO, and he deliberately plucked off all his eyelashes. Slope hated Stan, and Stan hated Slope.

Inside the stroller Slope thought of fabulous things. She thought about pigeons and plums and corduroy and celery, she thought of Ms. Lop, a woman without teeth but with very fine ivory gums, she thought about tongues and tubes and tennis, about cleaning tiles and combing someone else’s hair, she thought about goats and rags and nostrils and soup, she thought about Clod, a dwarf, whom she had slept with eleven times, she thought about how she had once forgotten how to spell Slope and about how she hadn’t forgotten again since, she thought about tiny bell peppers she had seen reflected in a mirror and about a can of tuna fish she had smelled and then thrown out. Then, suddenly, Stan appeared.

Slope, he began, where have you been?

She tried to think of something reasonable to tell him. The aquarium, she said.

Impossible, Stan replied.

And she agreed that it would have been impossible.

The supermarket, she tried.

Absolutely no chance!

And again she agreed that there was absolutely no chance.

The cottage, she said.

Stan looked hard at her. Yes, he said, yes I believe you have been at the cottage.

And Slope, too, believed that she had been at the cottage.

Now get to work, Stan said.

And so she got out of the stroller and got to work.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Another Conversation, XIV

On a stretcher, inside of a van, a man and woman have a conversation. The man asks the woman about her father. The woman asks the man about his mother. They both laugh at the questions, but neither answers. Then, suddenly, the van stops.

“Where are we?” one asks the other.

“There, I’d assume.”

Neither laughs at this.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Upset Woman

She walked down the street staring at the ground. One man, thinking that she looked upset, grabbed her by her arm.

“Are you upset?” he asked.

Without looking up she replied, “Yes.”

“I thought so,” the man said, and then he let go of her arm and continued down the street.

The woman too continued down the street. She hated walking on sidewalks. They were so crowded and there were too many cracks everywhere. Finally she made it home. When she went inside a man’s voice shouted, “You?”

“Yes,” she replied and hurried up to her room.

She got undressed quickly and crept into her bed. She needed a nap. She was tired. But before she could fall asleep the man entered the room.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

The woman didn’t respond.

“Are you upset?”

“Yes,” she said.

“I thought so,” he said, and then walked back downstairs.

The woman shut her eyes and tried to fall asleep.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Lovers, VII

Cramped, the woman whispers to the man next to her, “Scoot over.”

“What?” he asks.

She repeats, “Scoot over.”

“Where?” he asks, gesturing towards the empty space next to him.

“Forget it,” she replies.

“What?” the man asks, for he already has.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Grandfather, Pap, Receives a Letter from His Granddaughter, Unnamed

His granddaughter sent him a postcard. It read:


Dearest Pap,



I’ve lost something. I’m almost sure of it. I’ve tried calling. You won’t answer. Or perhaps you have. I’ve forgotten. Write back letting me know whether we’ve spoken. If so, all the more reason to respond. If not, try to figure out what it is I’ve lost.



Yours &c &c,

[unsigned]


The grandfather, a man not very much inclined to reading, threw the postcard out as soon as he received it. The granddaughter hadn’t anticipated a reply, and so forgot about the postcard almost immediately after having put it in the post. Neither spoke of it again, obviously.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Cracked Teeth


Her cracked teeth seemed for a moment to have replaced her lips. And then they were no longer cracked but whole, complete, real teeth that could sing and chew and smile, teeth that could, for a moment, make one feel something once called lust but now, after so many years, one merely calls strange, or worse, uncomfortable. Her teeth did this, or seemed to, and then, just as suddenly, they vanished. They went back into that hole, her mouth, and they hid, they hid and cracked all over again, tucked away, as they were, behind those fleshy gray shields, her cheeks and lips and nose, gray and dull and hard, like the back of a tortoise, bruised with centuries of waiting, creased and sullied with age, like feelings, those things we used to have, or that we convinced ourselves that we must have had, but which are now calloused and gray, dead from inactivity, unstirred, silent. Inside of a mouth that can no longer speak, that no longer contorts into either a smile or grimace but instead simply sits, sits and waits, quiescent, blank, housing teeth that are cracked and dried, desiccated from centuries of silence, centuries of waiting, only to now, for an instant, appear as if whole, as if somehow pieced back together, perhaps even capable of speech, of sound, of smiles and grimaces, of feeling, again, for a moment only, capable of lust or something like it, and then, just as quickly, retreating, forever now, back into the hole, her mouth, where they will sit like carrion, waiting for when, at last, they will have crumbled away completely, for when they will no longer have to wait, when it will, at last, be over.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Having Another Drink

Is there a bathroom here?

No.

What about a sink?

Of course not.

Can I ask you something?

He nodded.

Do other people come here?

I’ve never seen any others.

And how long have you been here?

Years, probably.

A pause, then:

Would you like another drink?

Of course.

And so they had another drink.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Single Halved Potato

She had known about it for a week before she told him. When he heard, he wept. Then they hugged each other and parted. He was tired, so he went home and napped. She went to a restaurant and ordered a modest meal that she ate most of, leaving only a piece of garnish and a single halved potato.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Pointed Tooth, Hair, and a Face like the Face of Someone I Used to Know

I was sitting alone when it happened, when she approached me. I still cannot say whether she was very pretty or not. One of her front teeth had been sharpened to a point. I remember that. And her face looked like a tarnished, distorted version of a face I used to love. But still, I’m not sure if she was ugly, or, for that matter, if she was pretty. I know that I looked at her hair for a long time. It was just like the hair of a woman I once knew.

She came up to me and asked me about my family. She said that I looked like someone who might have something to say about his family. As it turned out I didn’t. In fact I didn’t have much to say about anything. I was confused and a bit frightened. Women hardly ever speak to me. And so I looked down and said something, I’m not sure what, but I know it wasn’t what she had hoped for. I never respond the way people hope I will, or how I think they hope I will. I try very hard to, it just never works. But she stayed, she didn’t walk away. She began telling me about her family, and how an uncle of hers had recently lost all his hair. We both laughed at this, and then we both became quiet. I thought hard for something to say, something about an uncle of mine, for instance, or my grandmother, but nothing came to me. I just kept looking down. And then she began to speak again. She talked about an earring she had lost and how she had asked someone for help finding it and how he had laughed at her for asking for help. She talked about how tired she was and how she didn’t know why she was doing any of the things she was doing. She didn’t say exactly what it was that she was doing but I had an idea.

Eventually she stopped talking. She just stopped and looked at me. I couldn’t look her in the eyes. She stood up and said goodbye. I nodded and tried to say something similar. When she walked away all sorts of things went through my mind. I tried to remember what she looked like but couldn’t. Her tooth I remembered, and her hair, and the way her face reminded me of another face. I thought about one of my uncles and about how I’d always hated him. I thought about earrings and how ugly they make people look and about how tired I had become too. I forget what I said to her but I can remember almost every word she said to me. I can’t remember what she looked like, though.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The tabby cat’s indifference to what the woman with white teeth does professionally

A tabby cat, no taller than an otter, knew a woman with white teeth. The woman with white teeth was a physician. She cured the well. Or so she said. People, you see, ought not to believe that such a state as well exists. And so the physician, a woman with white teeth, did her part to cure well people of their wellness. The tabby cat, still no taller than an otter, didn’t know that this was the sort of work the woman with white teeth engaged in, but had it known, had someone told it that the woman with white teeth cured only those that were well, it probably wouldn’t have cared, for tabby cats don’t care a thing about wellness or illness, but only about things of some relevance, like the whiteness of teeth, or how tall something is, and so, as stated, the tabby would, in all likelihood, not care at all what the woman with white teeth cured or did not cure.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Stroheim's Beloved



A small comb, drawer 8. She had hair like ash and teeth few people would admire. Her posture had been described by a former lover as wilted.

In drawer 7, something else.

She heated all her meals in a microwave. She owned a microwave, drawer 4.

Before bed she would remove a bell from drawer 5 and ring it twice before replacing it in the drawer.

A man named Stroheim once courted her, but soon grew tired of spending all his time in drawer 2. Stroheim was bald, you see, and the heat of the drawer made his scalp sweat.

There is nothing in drawer 1, for she does not believe in beginnings.

And the contents of drawers 3, 6, and 9 are private.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Singular Terror Of Boards In The Mind Of A Man No Longer Quite What He Used To Be

He never says anything like he used to anymore. He is too frightened now. Of everything, it seems. Boards most of all though. The ones that constitute his floor, those that constitute the floors of other places, those that make up the sides of buildings, the bodies of signs, the counters of bars, etc, all frighten him to no end. But other things frighten him too. Just not as much. And so now he doesn’t say things quite like he used to, like the way he did before things like boards frightened him so. Which is sad, for he used to be a mildly amusing person. But no longer.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Hiding, but not really needing to, he being a not too noticeable figure

He didn’t want the others to see his face, so he tried to hide. Poor at picking places to hide though, the man was soon discovered. To his surprise, nobody much bothered looking at his face once he was discovered. In fact, not a soul so much as glanced at it. And so he went back into hiding, though he knew he didn’t need to.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hands and Faces and Coughs and Drinks and Conversation and a Pocket

They sat across from each other. The man looked up at her occasionally, but only because he was sure she was doing the same. She was not.

He put his hand on the table. Someone ordered something. He turned to see who it was. She was fat with purple eyes. She might have been smiling. He couldn’t tell. He turned back and looked at the woman across from. Did you hear that man hiccup earlier?

She looked at the man for the first time. No.

He laughed at this, one sharp, piercing bleat, and then looked down. I didn’t either. And he grunted after he said this.

She stood up. I was waiting for a drink. She didn’t look at him when she said this.

I know, he said. But in fact he hadn’t known. I am too.

She sat back down. They waited for a drink together, though neither ordered one. The drink was simply expected, or rather it was assumed. Sitting, both thought, should result in a drink. And so they sat together waiting.

After a time the man looked back over at the woman. Do you play cards?

She didn’t. What about chess?

Yes, she did play chess, though she wasn’t in the mood.

Neither am I. He put his head down. I was just… but he didn’t continue. He scratched his face with his hand.

Finally one of them coughed. I must go.

Yes. Fine. Ok. And as the woman got up from the table the man put his hands in his pockets.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Crouton the Lamp


She owned a small lamp she called Crouton. Crouton, she would whisper to it late at night, I miss you.

She lived in a small apartment. She shared it with dozens of other things: books, pots, two towels, a camera, a mattress, a sink, etc. Each of them had a name. Sometimes she would forget one of the names and so would call it something different. She hated having to remember so many names and wanted to get rid of it all. But she couldn’t, for she hated being alone.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Following a Woman for a Moment

There is a woman. She is part of this story. She wears brown clothes and has brown hair. Men, or some men anyway, desire her. Others do not. She has two or three somewhat close friends who she speaks to when she must. Her apartment is modest, her skin is fair, her father is a professional of some sort, her university degree is from an accredited school, etc. She likes certain things she does, though for the most part she is bored. One day, the day that this brief history takes place, she comes across a cat. Like most people, she is not immediately repulsed by the thing. She approaches it, extends a hand and coos. The cat tries to bite her, then begins hissing. The woman is frightened. She hurries past the cat. When she gets back to her apartment she locks her door as if the cat might be following her. But it is not. Nothing is. Except us.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Certain Feelings Sometimes Fail To Correspond To What Most People Would Probably, More Often Than Not, Refer To As Reality

I fell into a small cup of fish. Not really, of course. But I thought I had.

It was a damp, noisome place. It was not at all what I’d hoped I’d fall into. But, like I said, I hadn’t actually fallen into it. It just seemed like that, for a moment, and then it passed. And now I don’t feel like I’ve fallen anywhere at all. I feel fine, more or less.

Friday, March 27, 2009

cabiria


…and her eyebrows, her stripes, her smiles and screams and soft, unseen sighs…

Thursday, March 26, 2009

An Agreeable Situation, III

The more he typed, the less he said. Of late he had typed so much he could hardly say anything at all. Nobody noticed, however, because nobody expected him to say much anyway. And so he went on typing and being silent, and the others went on talking as they always had.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Shuffles Eats Only What It Wants

A goat named Shuffles eats only what it wants. One man, not knowing this, tried to feed Shuffles a cake as he passed it on the road. Shuffles refused it, so the man continued dejectedly down the road, alone.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Clip's Mother

Clip hadn’t eaten his supper. His mother wanted quite badly to scold him for this, but she was somewhat afraid of her son. So she said nothing, and Clip ate nothing.

Monday, March 23, 2009

An Uninteresting Discussion on an Uninteresting Subject, Blankets, and the Men Found Within, and, Eventually, Tears

Enjoying a blanket is not an easy thing. For one, there is the question of authenticity. That is to say, who made the blanket? Or rather, what is it made of? Or then again, what patterns can be detected on its surface? Or, or, or, and on and on. Questions of this sort, as well as of other sorts, surely, often arise when considering a blanket. They can also arise, but with slightly less frequency, in regards to children. One often finds oneself asking, Who made that child? Of what is it made? Why is it patterned so? And on and on and on.

Other things people occasionally find themselves asking questions about: spectacles, doorframes, celery, robust women, fans (electric, handheld, and the human sort), forests, lunch, refrigeration, &c &c. Other things too, surely, or most probably.

Inside of every blanket you’ll find a man, as they say. But people, of late, have forgotten some not insignificant thing about the sort of men one finds inside of blankets: they’re boring. Yes, they’re boring. Nearly every man I’ve ever met inside of a blanket has bored me nearly to tears. I say nearly because I never cry. I don’t have the capacity. I am all dried up. Desiccated. It is sad really. Or not. Not sad like a blanket anyway. Few things are though. And that, more likely than not, is why people ask so many questions about them. Though, obviously, that is not necessarily so.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Painting, a Picture, and a Coat


He hadn’t taken off his coat in some time. Others complained of this, though he wasn’t aware of it. He liked the coat a great deal, so it probably wouldn’t have had any effect anyway, him becoming aware of the others’ complaints, that is. He might have grumbled a bit, as he often did, or he might have felt a little silly, but he almost surely wouldn’t have taken the coat off or checked to see if it smelled. A coat, he felt, ought not be removed or too closely inspected. In fact, he felt this about nearly all things – they ought to be worn no matter how onerous, disregarded no matter how noisome, etc. In short, coats, like people or advertisements or seats or celery, ought for the most part to simply be ignored, overlooked, unscrutinized, etc., for once these things are inspected too closely, very little can be done but complain.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

An Interminable Initiation

A photograph of him as a child hung near the floor of his room. He would look down at it from time to time. He was wearing a plaid shirt, and one of his hands was showing. This photograph, a photograph of absolutely no consequence, was printed in the year 1987. In 1988, something horrible had happened to him. Since then a number of more or less horrible things had happened to him. But none, one might argue, as horrible as that first horrible thing. It had been a sort of initiation, an initiation which, unlike most initiations, had never concluded.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Visiting Old Loves

She had brown hair and pretty features. A man once photographed her for a magazine, but the magazine never actually used a picture of her. Her features were not that pretty, after all.

She slunk about when no one was looking, and she only rarely brushed her teeth. Kissing her was still fun though, or so some thought. On weekends she would visit a man she had once loved and who now lived in an institution outside the city. They never said much to each other during these meetings, but they looked at each other a great deal. She forgot how they had met and so did he. They never talked about the past though. They mostly just sat and looked at one another. When she returned to the city she would cry. It was never about anything in particular. She simply sat and cried. He would cry too, often. Though when he cried people would crowd about him and ask him questions. He would never respond to any of their questions. He hadn’t responded to a question in a great number of years. He tried not to think about questions. He mostly just tried to sleep. When the woman would arrive on the weekends he would smile. He didn’t know why this stranger with the pretty features was visiting him, so he didn’t know what else to do but look and smile. She held his hand once, and this had made him cry a great deal more than usual. She had felt like holding it for a long time, but something had always prevented her from doing so. On this occasion she had mustered the courage to finally do it. She reached out and grabbed his hand. It was drier than she remembered, and she almost laughed. He turned away from her when she touched him. She left a few moments later and the next weekend she didn’t come. The following weekend she returned, however, and continues to do so to this day.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Realizing at a Certain Point That There Isn’t Much Point in Carrying on with Whatever It Is You Are Carrying on With

She couldn’t recall having agreed to meet the man at noon, as he later claimed that she had. Instead at noon she had had a sandwich. It had been a ham sandwich, she said to the man, with a piece of cheese on it. She hadn’t minded the taste of it, but it hadn’t struck her as particularly noteworthy either. “Just a bit of ham with a slice of cheese, really.” For his part, he couldn’t have cared less what she thought about the sandwich. He was still upset. “But you had promised to meet me at noon, not some sandwich.” “Well I didn’t meet the sandwich,” she replied. “ I ate it.” And there was really very little he could say to this, for it was true, she hadn’t met the sandwich at all, but instead had eaten it. Still, he was not entirely pacified. “Nonetheless, it doesn’t settle why you didn’t meet me at noon.” “No,” she replied, “it doesn’t.” And it became clear to the man that there wasn’t much point in pursuing the point any further.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Several Words Accompanied by Several Simple Phrases

Funnel

Through which a secret message was passed. The message: smudged, thus rendered illegible.

Caught

A twig, or some such thing, on a sweater. The owner of the sweater, a corpulent man with a red face, curses. Then he puts his hand to his mouth.

Torch

Intended to light their way, fails, and results, tragically, in tragedy.

Bulb

The shape of a skull, perhaps, or a shape drawn on the back of a receipt. A pile of tissue has accumulated on the man’s desk. He hangs his head in shame, certain that someone might someday notice.

Polite

The woman I met the other night. Said things similar to things I might myself say, though her things were said with a smile.

Swan

A frank but foreign species, inclined to indolence and altogether lacking certain social skills. Once captured, it should be treated with insolence.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Not Knowing How To Say Something, So Deciding To Say It With a Horn


A man, declaring his love to a box, blows his horn. The box says nothing in response, but its silence seems to the man to suggest at least a slight reciprocation.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A thought came to him. Perhaps she hadn’t meant to. Perhaps. And then a sort of smile broke across his face, for she most surely had.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Woman in the Plaid Coat and Plop. Also, a Journalist.

Walking this way, Plop decided to turn and go the other way. A journalist approached him. Why did you do that? the journalist asked. I’ve forgotten, Plop replied. And then the two stopped speaking.

A woman in a plaid coat once said to a man she didn’t recognize, I haven’t forgotten you at all. But she had. She was a liar.

Plop met this woman at the bank once. She had complimented his hair. But she hadn’t meant it. And Plop could tell. When he went home he shaved off all his hair. The two never ran into each other again.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Man, a Chair, a Priest, a Barber

In place of a bed he had a chair. It wasn’t a particularly comfortable chair, but, as he said, it would do. He had ducktaped the seat in place, and the legs were nailed into the floor. When attackers would try to push him over in his chair, it wouldn’t budge. But no one ever tried attacking him. Once when he was a boy, an older man had told him that beds were no good. Whether this had any influence on his decision to not have a bed, a decision he made much later on in life, is not certain.

This chair then, the one nailed down to the floor, served a number of different functions. He used it, like most people with a chair, to sit in, but he, unlike most others with a chair, also used it to make love in, to sleep in, and to work in. Women adored making love in the chair, but they didn’t much care for sleeping in it. Thus he rarely had overnight companions. Like so much in this story, it is not certain how he felt about this.

For brevity’s sake, we will conclude with the following short anecdote, unrelated to either the man or the chair but, in some slight way (perhaps), germane: a priest and a barber were sharing a sandwich. One of the men looked at the other and said, “What’s on yours?” The other man replied, “Same as what’s on yours.” And both men had a hearty laugh over this.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Civic Pride

Very few people ride trains these days. Some lament this fact, though most don’t bother thinking much about it. One of the former is called Bulb. Bulb used to ride the trains a great deal and, compared with most others, still does. Though his health prevents him from riding as often as he’d ultimately like, he is able to hop aboard at least once a month. He never takes the train to any place in particular. To his thinking, a train is a thing without a destination. This is problematic for Bulb because there are often people on trains who collect tickets, and since he never has a destination, he never has a ticket. Thus, Bulb never gets very far when he travels. Sometimes he’ll pick a car that is far enough from where the ticket takers begin taking tickets that he’ll remain on the train until after it gets out of the station, but this is the exception more than the rule. For the most part, Bulb is expelled from the train well before it leaves the station. This is too bad, perhaps, for Bulb, but it should fill us citizens with great pride, for even though our trains are nowadays nearly totally unused, we still employ enough people to eject those few souls who would actually care to use them.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Being a Sister and Having an Avocation

A woman sits at a table peeling a hard-boiled egg. Once peeled, she stuffs the thing into her mouth. From the table she grabs a squirt-bottle of mayonnaise. She raises this to her mouth and shoots a thick, white stream of the stuff into her mouth. This, coupled with her saliva, works to break down the egg. Then she smashes the egg against her teeth with her tongue, though she never allows herself to chew. Finally she swallows and, for the most part, it all goes down. What’s left she picks out with her tongue and sucks noisily down.

She picks up another egg from her plate and turns it over in her hand. Then she raises it up and tosses it across the room. It explodes against a portrait hanging on the wall, a portrait of her brother. Yolk runs down the portrait in thick yellow rivulets. This egg, apparently, had not been hard-boiled. She chuckles, then takes up another egg. She begins peeling it, and the entire process begins again. This is the sister’s most cherished avocation.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Paean

There is a home video of a woman. She is lying on a mattress naked. She doesn’t know she is being videotaped. You can hear the breathing of the person videotaping her. You can also see when he reaches his hand out and touches the woman. He sets it down on her thigh. It is a thin hand, and the sleeping woman doesn’t stir as it caresses her. Then the person videotaping the woman steps back so that the naked woman falls out of the frame. There are a few seconds of video left where the person with the thin hand jostles the camera about, but nothing can be clearly distinguished in these frames. I found this videotape upstairs. There was a piece of tape with a small, childish scrawl on it. It read: paean.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Mr. Round Roundly’s Gray Curtain

A thick curtain obscures the window. Two women pace outside, staring up at it. It stares phlegmatically down at them, unflinching, uncaring, quiescent, a sort of haughty rebuke to their supplicating eyes.

Behind it lays all sorts of things. A table, for instance, and a chair. There is painting of a mallard, its beak swollen with yellow, its head a dark, sickly green. One of the women on the street has a mallard tattoo on her thigh, though she has never seen this painting.

For lunch the two women share a sandwich. One of them doesn’t eat bread, and the other won’t eat anything but bread. This makes for a felicitous arrangement. Both sit chewing their food in silence, only occasionally letting their eyes drift from the curtain.

The curtain is gray. It was purchased at in auction in 1929. The woman who had initially bid on it had been from Ohio. She didn’t bid high enough, however, and so returned to Ohio empty-handed.

The person who had won the curtain was called Edward G. Roundly. His grandson, Round Roundly, had inherited the curtain. He didn’t care for the thing, but left it hanging out of respect for a man he hardly ever knew. It has remained untouched for well over a decade.

The women met Round at a bar. Round met all his women at a bar. If he were to condescend to come out and speak with these women, he would probably tell them they’d be better off going back to the bar and trying to meet some other nice young man. But Round never condescended to come down to speak with his women, and so these women, good women really, healthy, pretty, sufficiently amiable, etc., will pace about outside for hours, staring up at the gray curtain, and yet neither will ever get to stare at the man they both want so badly to be staring at: Mr. Round Roundly. For Mr. Roundly, as perhaps evidenced by this story, is a far more fascinating character than the gray curtain, though we will not have an opportunity to stare at him either.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

24 Words

Two men limp towards each other. “A brisket?” “No, turkey.” “Fine.” The two men laugh heartily at this, then limp away from each other.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Park Is No Place To Be During A Storm

It began in a park, as such things so often do. A woman in a hat, a man with a limp, three brown paper bags, a mother, two friends, &c &c. One of the women present asks one of the men present if he’d like a scoop of ice cream. The woman is an employee of Cold Lips, an ice cream distributor. She hates ice cream herself. The man she addressed hates ice cream too. “No I wouldn’t.” He turns away from the woman. One of the other people present picks up a brown paper bag. “May I have this?” She doesn’t address this question to anyone, so no one responds.

A storm descends. People generally vacate parks when the weather is stormy. These people were no different. They all left the park at once.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

From Time to Time, Sitting

He stepped forward, then turned around. There wasn’t anyone there. He took another step forward. Then he sat down.

Two weeks later he stood up. His legs being a bit stiff, he decided he might try leaping. He hardly got off the ground. Ashamed, he looked behind himself. Still, no one was there.

Months and months have passed since he last sat down. He looks down at the ground longingly. He likes sitting. Then he turns around. Someone is standing behind him. It is a large man without much of a face.

“May I sit down,” he asks the large man.

And the man without much of a face says, “From time to time.”

Grateful, the man turns away from the man without much of a face. No one is there. He turns back around. The man without much of a face is gone. Pity, he thinks to himself, and then begins to think all sorts of other thoughts.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Supper, a Man with No Nose, Humming, a Mother, and Other Things of Little Consequence

They were all eating dinner together. Two of them were whispering near one of the corners. The man at the head of the table sat straight up, his back parallel with the wall behind him. He didn’t touch anything on his plate. One of the men at the table didn’t have a nose. He ate through his mouth like everyone else at the table, but he made different sounds while doing so. A small girl sitting somewhere near the middle wore a bow in her hair. Though people noticed this, no one commented on it. The mother at the table was a thin, severe woman. She coughed frequently throughout the meal and was almost constantly speaking. No one seemed to pay much attention to her, though. There was one very handsome man at the table. Most others at the table suspected that he had accidentally sat down at this table, for everyone else was quite unattractive. One woman, staring hard at her plate, even said, “Are you sure you’re in the right…” but then stopped, too frightened to finish addressing the attractive man. For his part, he didn’t even bother looking over at the woman trying to speak to him. He was preoccupied with his meal. Another young girl, this one without a bow in her hair, hummed a song she had learned in school that day. The man sitting next to her said that he remembered having learned that song once, and would she mind if he hummed along with her. She said that she would. The man was sullen for the rest of the meal. There were other people around the table too, but they had even fewer qualities to recommend themselves than those already mentioned. And so, quite naturally, there is nothing more to say.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

On Top of or Through or Inside of an Image

On top of or through or inside of an image, a small beetle crawled. It had been crawling for centuries, its little legs indefatigably squirming onwards. It had seen countless truculent men rise and fall from power, countless heaps heaped and then unheaped, countless women smile only to once again take up their frown, countless other beetles with countless other indefatigably squirming legs, countless hordes amassed and squandered and then amassed all over again, countless fruit ripen and then rot. It had heard countless ululating voices, countless poorly played songs, countless little lies, countless gasps of breath. It had tasted a few things too, and felt a few things, and thought a few things. It hadn’t smelled anything, however, though surely there were things to smell. People have seen this beetle for centuries, tiny and insignificant, its little legs indefatigably squirming on, but only just recently, only really just now, has it appeared on top of or through or inside of an image.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Avocations and Rooms

Certain he could do it, he never bothered to try. Instead, he constructed coffee cups. He built them out of all sorts of things, and he never got rid of a single one. When he died, an event which passed without notice, he left behind a small apartment full of coffee cups. The janitor had a great deal of trouble cleaning them all out and for this cursed the dead man. Eventually, though, he cleared them all out.

The room was rented a week later to a young man with absolutely no avocations.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Taking Notes

He wrote down the exact time at which he began nearly everything he did.

11:23 a.m., first glance at clock.

12:29 p.m., come to, recognize the need to arise.


12:34 p.m., staring into mirror, trying to coax myself into brushing my teeth.


12:36 p.m., brushing my teeth. etc. etc.


He never looked back over these notes. Still, they leant a certain reality to his actions, he felt. Were anyone to be certain that what they were doing now was going to be written down, was going to be carefully transcribed and taken note of, people would likely act in completely different ways. Or at least they would for a while.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Thumb Telling a Story About Hart, but Failing to Interest His Listener

The light will cease to fail. This, or something like this, is what Hart told Thumb. Hart told Thumb this when he was standing on a ladder. He was standing on a ladder because he was trying to reattach a light fixture to the ceiling. Recalling this event months later, Thumb tried to tell someone about it. He failed. Or rather, he was able to convey to the person what had happened – the fixture had fallen off his ceiling and a man had replaced it, but not well, so that the light came down again only a few days later – but he was not able to interest him in what had happened (the point, perhaps, of some recollections). He tried to explain to him what he’d thought he’d heard Hart say, but this too did nothing to pique the listener’s interest. Thumb stopped trying to tell his story and was silent.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bow Ties and Competently Made Things

He was the most talented of the lot. One or two people had told him so. As a result, he wore a bow tie. This bow tie, a relic from his past, had once belonged to a film director. This director, a man now nearly forgotten, had once made a picture about a band of outlaws. Outlaws are and always have been the subject of a great many films. Better directors have made better outlaw pictures, but this director, the director whose bow tie the somewhat talented man now wore, only made what critics called a ‘competent’ outlaw picture. Had critics ever critiqued this somewhat talented man, they would no doubt arrive at a similar verdict.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Tooth and Peter: Two Men We Will Spend a Moment with, but No More than That

The man in the curious green coat is named Tooth. Tooth’s friend, the man in the yellow tie, is called Peter. Tooth had met Peter at a bar. They had both been alone. Tooth had looked over at Peter and made a sort of remark. Peter, in response, made a sort of remark. This blossomed into what was earlier called a friendship. Tooth and Peter spend a great deal of time with each other, though we will not spend any more time with either.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Excerpt from a Novel, 1

At one point Bodkin raises the issue of gloves, declaring that a man with gloves, in his estimation, is no more a man than that tree.

Morton responds, But that tree isn’t wearing any gloves.

Bodkin: It doesn’t have to.

That is the conclusion of their conversation about gloves.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Breakfast Is the Saddest Meal

He was sitting at his desk. In the other room his boss was consuming two breakfast sandwiches simultaneously. Occasionally she would break to take a sip from a massive, sweating soda cup that was a permanent fixture of her desk. She was a diabetic. Witnessing this morning routine was one of the sole rays of hope in this man’s life. Perhaps today, he would think to himself, perhaps today.

In the midst of these reveries something awful would always happen. A bit of American cheese, for instance, would drip from one of the boss’ sandwiches and tumble onto a folder. He, naturally, was in charge of maintaining these folders, and his boss, without setting aside either sandwich, would grunt and gesture towards the folder. He would then have to stand up, walk to his boss’ desk, remove the folder from the desk, remove the dollop of American cheese from the folder, attempt to eradicate the ineradicable grease stain, and then set the folder back down where it had been. His reward: a grunt that, more often than not, precipitated another prandial catastrophe. This too he would clean up, and so on, until she had finished her meal.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Clod’s Sisters’ Predilections

Clod worked in a factory. He had two sisters, neither of whom worked in a factory. Their lovers both did, however, and they were both close with Clod. One night Clod and his sisters’ lovers went out. This was not uncommon for the three of them. They went to a place called Mudd’s. Mudd’s was always full of men who worked in factories. Tonight, though, Mudd’s was empty. This didn’t upset Clod or his friends, for they didn’t care for other factory workers. They sat talking for hours and then, quite suddenly, all three were drunk. Clod began asking the other two what his sisters were like. Uncomfortable at first, the men began opening up. One of Clod’s sisters, apparently, enjoyed feathers. The other, a quiet girl, preferred eggs. Clod sat and listened to all of this quietly. He had never been with a woman, so his sisters’ preferences meant very little to him. Had he known what his two friends were talking about, though, Clod might have reacted differently. But perhaps not. It is difficult to say.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Few of the People in a Medium Sized City, One of Whom is a Painter, and Certain Sundry Comments on Sorts of Avocations

He knew that they could hear most everything that he said. Or he suspected they could. As a result, he hardly said anything. He was terrified that others might think thoughts about him that were similar to those he had about them. At times this became almost too much to bear. So he avoided others.

In an apartment three buildings away, a woman sits with her head clasped in her hands. This position, intended so often to signal despair or distress, is not intended to signify anything here. At present, presumably, this is the most comfortable position this woman is able to find for herself.

Beneath her, in an apartment identical in nearly all aspects, lives a family. At present, all members of the family are working, so no activity can be noted within this place.

All of these people – a man, a woman and a family – live in a medium sized city. One of them has pretensions of being a painter, though none of them will ever be known outside of the medium sized place where they all currently reside. Were the painter aware of this fact, he would probably forsake painting. It, like the avocations of all of these people, was an affectation and would naturally decay were one to point out the futility of it. Unlike the avocations of all the others, however, painting generated a great deal more scorn amongst the citizens of this medium sized city, for painting, unlike, say, fishing, is often regarded as the product of an exaggerated sense of self, which is a sense that most people resent, naturally enough.

Before concluding here, it should be mentioned that the man mentioned initially, the man who knew (or suspected) that others heard him, was not the painter. Neither was it the woman who clasped her head in her hands (as the pronoun in the prior paragraph no doubt betrays). Thus it was a member of the family – a male member of the family, who painted, though this fact can hardly be of any importance.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sleep Sullied by a Not Altogether Kind Mother

Having grown up here, and having known for some time the consequences of doing so, Ledger de Maine couldn’t help but worry about what would come of him. He went to his mother:

Mother, what do you think will become of me?

Mrs. de Maine was reading. She didn’t bother looking up. A sort of grimace contorted her face, and then she let out a single, sharp snort.

Ledger was tired. Someone had called and woken him up early to tell him an anecdote that he hadn’t found amusing:

Ledger? Ledger?

Yes.


A boat. Two men on a boat. One man, tall with a face equine, sips from a mug. The other man, thirsty, asks “A taste of your mug?” The tall man replies, “I hadn’t thought so.” The boat moves on and neither man is happy. A fish leaps out of the water. From the shore a girl hollers. Later in the day the men get out of the boat and go back to the cabin. Sitting about in the cabin one of the men suggests cards. They play. Then one of the men suggests rest. They both go to sleep.


Yes, yes, a very good idea.


Really? I thought it rather dull.


That was the end of their conversation.

Ledger had been awake for nearly 3 hours. Tired, he went to take a nap. Before he fell asleep, however, his mother entered his room:

Not much, she says.

And because of this rather cutting remark, Leger wasn’t able to get any sleep at all.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A tolerable time had by all.

When W arrived R was leaving. Where are you going?

Oh nowhere. Away.

See you soon.

Of course.

W knew almost everyone there. He saw H approach C.

How’s it going?

I haven’t heard that one yet.

They both laugh.

In a corner M touches G’s wrist.

Never again, G hisses.

I’d forgotten, replies M.

They hadn’t been getting along lately.

S is in a corner. He is drinking from a plastic cup. P approaches.

P: have you seen S?

S: she’s not coming.

P: pity.

S does not respond.

Finally K arrives. She is wearing a necklace. Someone, surely, notices.

H has been staring at D. D, intolerant of people who stare, lisps:

What is it?

Your throat, he says. It is far too large.

D doesn’t respond. She takes a long sip from her plastic cup.

A has invited Q. Q, in turn, invited F. F knows nobody, so approaches W.

How’s it going?

I haven’t heard that one yet.

I’m sorry?

Me too. Then W turns from F and walks hastily across the room to S.

Did you hear him?

Who?

That one.

Oh I can’t see a thing.

I hadn’t asked if you’d seen him.

Well I haven’t been listening either.

W decides to leave.

See you soon.

Of course.

May I have my coat? W asks nobody in particular. Receiving no reply, W walks from the room and is gone.

The party persists for some time.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Hunger and Heartbreak (Sort Of)

He wrote to his grandmother once a week. She always sent him money in return. He had no other source of income. One day, however, he couldn’t think of anything to write. This lasted for a week, and then another week, and then another week, until finally the man hadn’t written to her for an entire month. The grandmother, feeling spurned, wrote him out of her will. She died two days later, and as a result the young man, her grandson, died three days later from hunger and, to a far lesser degree, heartbreak.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Being Driven from One's Home

Dun owned a dog. One day he tired of being a dog owner, so he threw the thing out. His lover disapproved of such an action. “It’s too heavy to toss out in the regular garbage,” she admonished him. “You might get a ticket.”

Dun hadn’t thought of this. “I’ll get a job,” he tells her. And so he goes out and gets a job.

While Dun is working the garbage is taken from in front of his building. No ticket is left. When he returns that evening his lover is seated on the couch. “Well?” he asks her.

“No ticket.”

The next day Dun doesn’t bother showing up for work.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Very Much like Boredom, Curious Men Seem to Emerge at Nearly Every Spot

A young girl does a cartwheel for no reason. At the cartwheels perigee her face flushes, and it remains flushed even after having reached its apogee. One man, a curious man, approaches her. He sticks his thumb out and presses it hard against her cheek. When he removes it the cheek is, for a moment, blanched, but it almost immediately regains its color. A third person, taller than the other two and significantly older, approaches them. He is dragging a chair behind himself. “May I sit down here?” he asks.

The young girl looks at the tall, elderly man and shrugs.

The curious man says, “Of course not.”

The other man smiles. “I thought not,” he says. He drags the chair away from the other two.

“Why did you press your thumb into my cheek?” the little girl asks.

The curious man doesn’t respond to her.

Then, moments later, he says, “I haven’t seen a chair in weeks.”

“Are you sure that that’s what he was dragging?” the girl asks.

But again the man does not respond.

A fourth person emerges, briefly, and then is gone.

“Who was it that starred in My Man Godfrey?” the girl asks.

“Benjamin West,” he replies, “or Clifford Irving.” He pauses. “No, no, it was Paul de Man. Or Samuel Butler…no, it was Irving Howe, yes certainly, it was Washington Irving himself – the great American patriarch of letters.” He stops.

“I’ve never seen it.”

“Oh well you must, you must! It’s a classic!”

And at this the small girl makes a face. The curious man asks:

“What is that face for?”

The girl shakes her head.

“Is it something I’ve said?”

Yes, the girl nods.

“Then should I stop saying things?”

Yes, the girl nods again.

And so he does.


The girl is by herself again. Her face is no longer flushed. She contemplates doing another summersault, but then remembers that she hadn’t done a somersault earlier. Thinking hard about what it was that she had done, the small girl grows bored. Having nothing better to do, she begins running away from the spot where she is and towards some other spot, some spot selected for no other reason than that it is not this spot, this spot where she had of late grown so very bored.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Another Scene About Soup

Fortunately for Phil, Todd had forgotten the soup in the hallway. Caitlyn comes in. “Where’s the soup?” she asks. And Phil doesn’t have to lie. “I don’t know,” he says. Caitlyn shrugs and walks out of the room.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Scene Not Worth Reading

Inside of a car sat two tall women. Neither cared for the other. Finally one spoke, “Did you see him yesterday?”

The other woman, feeling attacked, responded, “Yesterday?”

Annoyed, the other said, “Yes.”

“No, I did not.”

They didn’t say anything else to each other until one got to where she needed to be dropped off. “Thanks for the ride.”

“No problem.”

And they parted.




Agreed?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

At a Pub

Ail sits on a stool. She is drinking from a tall glass. After each sip she shuts her eyes.

Tib, a mother of eight children, looks at the woman with scorn. I would never sit on a stool, she thinks. One of her eight children runs up to her. She strikes her.

Ada is only eight years old. Her mother, a brutal woman, has soft hands. Ada adores being struck with it.

Pit has eaten too much. He calls the waiter over and asks for some sort of drink. “We don’t serve drinks here, sir,” the waiter responds. “Well what is that woman having?” he asks, pointing at Ail. “A glass of gin, sir.” “Well I’ll have one of those then.” “Sure thing, sir,” and he walks away to go fetch the drink.

Ulg, tired, rests his head on the table. He has not slept in three nights. The first two had been spent counting certain objects, and the third night had been spent recruiting new objects that he hoped to one day try to count.

Bok never knows what to say, so before he approaches Ail he jots down a few phrases on a napkin. Upon reaching the stool, however, his sweaty palm has made all the ink on the napkin run, and so he has nothing to say. Ail, generous creature that she is, pats him on the head.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Sort of Story I’d Prefer, Probably

In most stories most people look for a great number of characters doing a great number of things. Just a man is fine with me, a man that’s a bit confused and not too too bright. A man who sits about and tries briefly to puzzle things out and then gives up on them entirely. A man who is reticent, probably, but who we will never see interact with a soul. He will be ugly too, though this fact will be of no great importance to him or to us. It will be a story with just one man sitting about doing a few simple things. He won’t do them particularly well, but then we won’t have expected him to do them well. He will either finish them or he won’t, and again we will not mind either way. Just so long as we become acquainted, however cursorily, for a time, and then after a time part. The amount of time will be of no real significance either. Just simply knowing that we witnessed a man doing something – something done neither well nor poorly – and that he, for his part, allowed us to witness him doing this, or at least didn’t complain about it, or perhaps did complain but, ultimately, could do nothing to stop us. Yes, that is it, a story in which we witness a man that cannot prevent us from peeking in on him, who has no choice but to submit to our gaze, &c &c. In short, I don’t care for stories with many characters, or perhaps I do, but I’d prefer a story with just a man, a man that’s a bit confused and not too too bright.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Beginning in a Circle, Devolving into Other Shapes, Speaking Archly About Things One Knows Nothing About, and Concluding with a Vapid Attempt to Shock

We begin in a circle. Then one of us speaks. It is usually about something not terribly important. Just simply that something was said, that’s what’s important. Then others begin to speak. They say all sorts of things, some of them important, others not so very important. After a time the circle disintegrates. It does so naturally. People are not meant to stand about in perfect geometric shapes. So we don’t. We move about. Certain people are speaking to certain other people, and not everyone is listening. People cannot pay attention to more than a single person at a time anyway. Or that’s at least what some people think. I would say that’s being a bit generous. I’d say that sometimes we get close to paying attention to another person, but we never can go all the way. But that isn’t the point. Not that there is a point, definitely. There are things that are definitely not the point, however, and that is one of them. The circle, that is more to the point. Or rather the irregular geometric shapes that emerged from the circle. And why it did so, and how. But people shouldn’t be made to answer questions. People aren’t around to be constantly finding answers to things. People should stop answering questions, in fact, or at least stop trying to. But people should be doing some things. They should be playing more tennis, for instance, but washing their hair less frequently. People should stop cooking, and they should pretend to not like pets. People should adopt more phobias and try to never leave their apartments. People should learn more ways of hurting each other, and they should begin sleeping around more. People should always be sleeping with each other, but people shouldn’t be allowed to have children. We should try to put an end to ourselves. Baby’s should be laughed at and hit over the head. People should take photographs not of things but of other photographs. People should try meaning less of what they say, and if they find themselves in a situation in which sincerity is demanded, they should be forced to apologize for their sincerity. People should read books but not remember them. They should watch movies but only when they need a nap. People should listen to music in order to better understand that there is something even uglier than human speech. We should yell at each other more loudly. We should try desperately to make each other even more frightened of each other than we already are. But again, again, none of this is to the point. Let us just conclude with this: that when one begins to speak to others in a circle, the circle begins to break down into slightly more irregular geometric shapes until, finally, you are looking at some single person and shaking all over, thinking about all the various things keeping you from doing what you’d really like to do to them, which is, in all likelihood, to hurt them.

In any case, we shake a great deal, us humans, because we have forgotten how to hurt people. So take a bat, or a baby, and hit it hard against something.