[MISC] Stolen Garbage #9
jamie.rosen at sunlife.com
Fri Mar 18 10:00:48 PST 2005
Some days you get the bear, Bobby-Jane, and some days the bear gets...
"False Starts, False Finishes"
When I woke--
Let me try that again.
When I woke I was--
I was lying face down in the family room, my eyes
my eyes mere inches from the marble fireplace.
When I woke I was lying face down in the family room, my eyes mere
inches from the marble fireplace. There were still smoking embers
There were still smoking embers behind the grate.
In the distance, I could hear the parishoners coming to settle into
their well-worn grooves on the church pews. They would not look kindly
on my presence; Christian charity extends only so far in this
community. Not far enough to reach those who need it. So I removed
myself to the cloistered rooms at the back, where the Brotherhood of
Belles-Lettres sat, studying their books. They were stooped over, from
stools too high and desks too low, and their backs formed twisted humps
beneath their cassocks. The perfect environs into which I could blend
with minimal effort -- the mere donning of a dirt-brown robe would
suffice for the time being.
In the depths of the cloister there was a ticket-taker. I, myself, was
not ready to have my ticket punched, so instead I punched the
ticket-taker, resulting in some semblance of a ruckus.
In the ruckus I escaped the confines of the Church of Our Lady of a
I'm sorry. Our Lady of a Hundred Follies.
On the street there was a cluster of young people. They were watching
what I could only take to be the current manifestation of art's desire
to distance itself from art: a dead body, outlined in chalk, was being
slowly rotated, then outlined again, until it formed a rather mordant
snowflake on the concrete of the sidewalk.
Even to an acknowledged connoisseur of the uncommon, this provoked in
me feelings of unease.
Slinking down an alleyway, I spied a public phone booth and considered
contacting my estranged wife, Estrillia. But that would have led in
turn to other contacts, contacts I could do well to avoid. Bernard.
Joseph. Alicia. Morgan. Noelle. Du Champs. Paul Revere. The Internal
Revenue Service. Brian. Violet. Tony the Chunk. Estelle. Mona. Ramona.
The list went on, filling several foolscap pages when I took the time
At the shopping centre, I ventured into a store devoted to time pieces.
All of them were perfectly wound and perfectly synchronized. All of
them but one, one stopped clock whose hands were frozen ignominously on
the six and between the eight and seven. I picked up the clock and saw,
in an instant, the clues that had evaded me to that point.
In the public washroom on the second floor behind the ice cream shop I
changed into my costume. It is a dignified costume. Heroic. I took a
moment to admire my reflection in the mirror. A dashing figure, in all
the subtle hues of the rainbow. Like a painting by Matisse, or an oil
stain in a puddle of rainwater.
I exited the washroom and made my way through the food court. A small
child spat up on the front of his shirt. A married couple fought each
other using stony silence. A janitor poked at a puddle of Coke with her
mophandle, reconsidered, used the mop instead.
On the street outside the shopping mall rain fell on my head. The dead
body had been removed. The chalk was running in milky streams. There
was an invisible giant destroying the city. Previously, I had not
noticed this invisible giant, as it was, strictly speaking, invisible.
Now I was intensely aware of its presence, although I could not see it.
I rose up to eye level on wings of disingenuity. The lies supported me
as I bobbed, facing where I knew the invisible giant to be.
"Halt," I instructed. "In the name of the law and proper moral
The invisible giant ignored me and picked up the soul of a man standing
at the bus stop. It slurped with a sound like spaghetti eaten by a
child. The man seemed not to notice. His wife seemed not to notice. The
bus driver seemed not to notice. His shoes seemed not to notice. His
dog noticed, but was unable to formulate the words to express its
concern about the continuing psychological and spiritual decline of the
Americas in the face of a cultural spiral of self-destruction. All that
it could manage was a 'woof.'
The invisible giant smacked its lips. The wind toussled my hair. The
rain had stopped, and the sun threatened to part the clouds above us
"I gave you fair warning," I said. "Fair warning."
The battle was joined. I attacked with fallacies, malapropisms, a copy
of the United States Constitution reproduced on a commemorative
placemat. The giant hurled invectives, slashed funding, and struck
while the iron was hot. We raged above the city skyline. We tore down
the city streets. We plunged into the city sewers, where rats and giant
alligators watched in confusion.
In the end there could be no clearcut winner. I had felled the giant,
but it was still conscious, while my lifeblood seemed to seep out to
coat his body. An audience had gathered -- I recognized people from the
audience that had watched the art performance, members of the clergy, a
baby with spittle and carrot on its shirt. The ticket-puncher was
present as well; the giant presented him a ticket, as did I.
"You've had quite a day," he observed, taking my ticket from me.
"Must be tired."
"Well, you have a nice long sleep ahead of you."
I tried to smile. I thought of my estranged wife. Of Donna. Of Nadine.
Of Marcel. Of Jean-Paul Sartre. Of the colour of an egg yolk in the
"That's good," I said.
The ticket-puncher nodded and handed me back my ticket. "There is no
smoking on the coach," he said, looking out at the city that had been
our battleground, "at any time."
Barthelme, Kafka, Aimee Bender perhaps, or Ray Vuckckckckckcevich.
Those are the influences you can rightly see here. Probably some other
people whose names are escaping me at the moment (what artist is not an
amalgam of his influences, remembered and forgotten?)
The experiment in this story, such as it was, was in writing only
between phone calls, and in stopping right where I was whenever a call
came through. That's the reason for the choppy, start-and-stop tone at
the beginning; the passages get lengthier near the end because the flow
of calls slowed down later in the day when I was writing this.
I actually wrote it over the course of a few days, however; saving it
and e-mailing drafts of what I had done so far to myself. I've done
this a few times, but this is the only story I've actually finished
using that method.
And yes, I know he wakes up in the family room and then a few lines
later he's in a church. That's just the way it is.
Copyright 2005, for what it's worth.
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