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?


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?


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.


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.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Brief Correspondence

He had begun a correspondence with himself. With a red pen he would be Petons, a character he had created, and with a blue pen he would pretend to be himself. He had purchased a number of notebooks inside of which he intended to document what he anticipated would become a lengthy correspondence. And, at first, it seemed like it really would turn out to be. Petons initiated the correspondence, writing gushingly about his nascent character, about new words he was learning and faces he was told he had always known (he knew, however, that he had not). He talked about what it was like where he was and why people ought not put others there unless they intended to look after them. He wrote of the many characters he had met who had been abandoned there, and who, despite their best efforts, would likely simply fade away. Petons wrote on and on and on, practically overflowing with language.

Reading over Petons’s words, his creator grew uncomfortable. What had he done? Panicked, he wrote a single word response in blue letters: SORRY. This concluded their brief correspondence.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Preferring Toast (with Mayonaise) to Eggs, for Now Anyway

He no longer wanted an egg. This news stunned his mother.

“Well what do you want?”

“Toast,” he said. “With mayonnaise.”

She made him a piece of toast and spread mayonnaise all over it.

“Thank you,” he said. And then he ate it with relish.

Monday, February 2, 2009


She had changed. Her face had. It was flatter. Someone had touched it. He could tell. He shouted at her about it. And she felt embarrassed for him, knowing that he was right.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The man in the too-long tie

She sat down on a long divan. This excited her a great deal. A man was coming to meet her, and she kept thinking to herself: I hope this time he is not in a too-long tie. He was.