Thursday, April 30, 2009


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:


“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


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


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.


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.


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,


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?


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.