Berkeley Fiction Review, Volume 17

Page 1

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f i c t i o n

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B e r k e l e y

F i c t i o n

R e v i e w


B e r k e l e y

F i c t i o n

R e v i e w

N u m b e r 17

University of California,

Berkeley


B e r k e l e y

Cover Art by Merav Tzur

F i c t i o n

R e v i e w

Editor

Daphne Young

Associate Editors

Michael Berry Grace Fujimoto Nicole Thompson

Art Editor

Christine Cilley

Editorial Assistants

Tom Harberts Wendy Park Elaine Wong Greg Youmans

Sales & Marketing

Tom Harberts

Staff

Sandra Conroy Tamra Fallman Simona Moldovan John Rauschenberg Jeremy Russell Ken Singer Ryan Stanley Kezia Tang Jennifer Zahigian

Cover Art

Merav Tzur

Illustrations

Charles Ellik

Copyright 1997 by Berkeley Fiction Review The Berkeley Fiction Review is not an official publication of the Associated Students of the University of California. These stories are works of fiction and do not necessarily reflect the views of the ASUC or the University of California, Berkeley. The Berkeley Fiction Review is a non-profit publication. Inquiries, correspondence and submissions should be sent to Berkeley Fiction Review\ c/o ASUC Library, 201 Heller, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-4500. The Berkeley Fiction Review is not responsible for unsolicited material. Member of CLMP Distributed by Ubiquity, Brooklyn, New York Cover graphics by IPC Graphics, Fremont, California Printed by The Bookprinterst Pacheco, California ISSN 1087-7053

Special thanks once again to George Stilabower for his humor, patience, professional guidance and support during the production of this issue. We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the Committee, on Student Publications and the Associated Students of the University of California.


B e r k e l e y

Cover Art by Merav Tzur

F i c t i o n

R e v i e w

Editor

Daphne Young

Associate Editors

Michael Berry Grace Fujimoto Nicole Thompson

Art Editor

Christine Cilley

Editorial Assistants

Tom Harberts Wendy Park Elaine Wong Greg Youmans

Sales & Marketing

Tom Harberts

Staff

Sandra Conroy Tamra Fallman Simona Moldovan John Rauschenberg Jeremy Russell Ken Singer Ryan Stanley Kezia Tang Jennifer Zahigian

Cover Art

Merav Tzur

Illustrations

Charles Ellik

Copyright 1997 by Berkeley Fiction Review The Berkeley Fiction Review is not an official publication of the Associated Students of the University of California. These stories are works of fiction and do not necessarily reflect the views of the ASUC or the University of California, Berkeley. The Berkeley Fiction Review is a non-profit publication. Inquiries, correspondence and submissions should be sent to Berkeley Fiction Review\ c/o ASUC Library, 201 Heller, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-4500. The Berkeley Fiction Review is not responsible for unsolicited material. Member of CLMP Distributed by Ubiquity, Brooklyn, New York Cover graphics by IPC Graphics, Fremont, California Printed by The Bookprinterst Pacheco, California ISSN 1087-7053

Special thanks once again to George Stilabower for his humor, patience, professional guidance and support during the production of this issue. We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the Committee, on Student Publications and the Associated Students of the University of California.


Second Sudden

Fiction

Annual Contest

Winners

First prize-T/ie New Victorians KolinJ.M.Ohi San Francisco, CA Second Prize-Cdfc in Their Summer Dresses Mary McDermott Cupertino, CA

P a t r o n s

Third Prize-to contend with spirits Linda Walters-Page ^ Honolulu, HI

Honorable

Mention

Olivier a n d T a m i Deschryver David W o n g M i c h a e l B. C o x

The Bigness of Tortoises Tracy de Brincat Van Nuys, CA Nothing Beyond Alana Ryan Richmond, VT Spilled Milk Gregory Chaimov Milwaukie, OR

Thanks to our generous patrons for their support of literary arts.

Cha Cha Chris Eberhard Pinellas Park, FL Hiding His Weeds Michael Propsom Vancouver, WA


Second Sudden

Fiction

Annual Contest

Winners

First prize-T/ie New Victorians KolinJ.M.Ohi San Francisco, CA Second Prize-Cdfc in Their Summer Dresses Mary McDermott Cupertino, CA

P a t r o n s

Third Prize-to contend with spirits Linda Walters-Page ^ Honolulu, HI

Honorable

Mention

Olivier a n d T a m i Deschryver David W o n g M i c h a e l B. C o x

The Bigness of Tortoises Tracy de Brincat Van Nuys, CA Nothing Beyond Alana Ryan Richmond, VT Spilled Milk Gregory Chaimov Milwaukie, OR

Thanks to our generous patrons for their support of literary arts.

Cha Cha Chris Eberhard Pinellas Park, FL Hiding His Weeds Michael Propsom Vancouver, WA


C o n t e n t s F o r e w o r d

Production of Berkeley Fiction Review 17 has been a surprise and an anomaly. Nearly every rule about content and format set down in the last few issues has been happily broken. Our twenty-five page limit for manuscripts has been shattered by no less than four stories this issue. Twelve years have passed since BFR published an English translation of fiction. The "no poetry" rule is skirted with a collection of visual poetry by artist and poet Charles Ellik. A few of our selections probe new territory in fantasy and identity at the end of the millenium, exploding form. Our mission has always been to publish a wide variety of styles and voices, but this issue is exceptional in its achievement of that goal. The diversity of voices, fearless in their confrontation of todays issues, and the range of content and style of the stories in this volume are stunning. They are a testament to the richness, the textures and the scope of contemporary fiction. I am pleased and proud to present this collection of stories. On a personal note, I would like to thank the staff of Berkeley Fiction Review, past and present. Working with them has been the highlight of my education at Berkeley. Literary magazines are a labor of love in these days of "downsizing" and the squeeze on money for the arts. The fierce dedication of a volunteer staff can never be taken for granted. Thanks, too, to our patrons, who put their dollars where their hearts are. Thanks to Ron Loewinsohn, Tom Farber and George Stilabower for support, advice and encouragement at every turn. And thanks, many thanks to the writers who send us their work, who share their vision and their art. When all is said and done, this magazine belongs to you.

So Much A Circle

Michael Stockham

10

The New Victorians

Kolin J.M. Ohi

23

Fellow Feeling

Daniel Scott

25

to contend with spirits

Linda Walters-Page

46

SHU

Vicky Anderson

48

Octavia

Craig Lauer

59

You Don't Need a Quarte

Jimmy J. Pack Jr.

Rain

Bridget Hoida

77

Venice

Ellery Washington C

89

One-Panel Poems

Charles Ellik

98

Before the Cock Crows

Alvaro Mutis

104

'

75

This is to Notify You That the Records of the Above Named Veteran Are Complete Cassandra Gainer

123

K^ais in i neir auuuw

Mary McDermott

128

Mergeform

Trevor Perrin

131

Jose Alaniz

153

Central Meridian Contributors

204


C o n t e n t s F o r e w o r d

Production of Berkeley Fiction Review 17 has been a surprise and an anomaly. Nearly every rule about content and format set down in the last few issues has been happily broken. Our twenty-five page limit for manuscripts has been shattered by no less than four stories this issue. Twelve years have passed since BFR published an English translation of fiction. The "no poetry" rule is skirted with a collection of visual poetry by artist and poet Charles Ellik. A few of our selections probe new territory in fantasy and identity at the end of the millenium, exploding form. Our mission has always been to publish a wide variety of styles and voices, but this issue is exceptional in its achievement of that goal. The diversity of voices, fearless in their confrontation of todays issues, and the range of content and style of the stories in this volume are stunning. They are a testament to the richness, the textures and the scope of contemporary fiction. I am pleased and proud to present this collection of stories. On a personal note, I would like to thank the staff of Berkeley Fiction Review, past and present. Working with them has been the highlight of my education at Berkeley. Literary magazines are a labor of love in these days of "downsizing" and the squeeze on money for the arts. The fierce dedication of a volunteer staff can never be taken for granted. Thanks, too, to our patrons, who put their dollars where their hearts are. Thanks to Ron Loewinsohn, Tom Farber and George Stilabower for support, advice and encouragement at every turn. And thanks, many thanks to the writers who send us their work, who share their vision and their art. When all is said and done, this magazine belongs to you.

So Much A Circle

Michael Stockham

10

The New Victorians

Kolin J.M. Ohi

23

Fellow Feeling

Daniel Scott

25

to contend with spirits

Linda Walters-Page

46

SHU

Vicky Anderson

48

Octavia

Craig Lauer

59

You Don't Need a Quarte

Jimmy J. Pack Jr.

Rain

Bridget Hoida

77

Venice

Ellery Washington C

89

One-Panel Poems

Charles Ellik

98

Before the Cock Crows

Alvaro Mutis

104

'

75

This is to Notify You That the Records of the Above Named Veteran Are Complete Cassandra Gainer

123

K^ais in i neir auuuw

Mary McDermott

128

Mergeform

Trevor Perrin

131

Jose Alaniz

153

Central Meridian Contributors

204


So Much a Circle

S o

M u c h

a

C i r c l e

Michael Stockham

G

enerally I like to see a man's face before I start checking out his lugs, but today it's hot. I've been sitting on the edge of the highway since the sun first turned that arcwhite of midday. Without a tree in sight, I slide down to a good, firm lying sprawl, my spine loosening in those jellied lines of heat undulating in the layer of mirage that hovers like a ghost above asphalt. I've taken the precaution of placing my sign, "Albuquerque Bound," over my head, kind of half-bent, in an attempt at token protection, so when the truck stops, all I see are his lugs, the rust on the bottom runners of his algae-green pick-up, and a couple of those chrome-titty-bitch placards glued to his rear mud flaps. Lugs don't get that way from a normal kind of use. All bent up, banged up and generally fucked over, the man behind the wrench frustrated, upset or just not paying attention, boogering the ears off that nut until it's so much a circle that not even the Tire Fairy with that magic pixie dust, a crinkle of her nose and a shake of her ass could back it off. The only thing to do is take a sledge and bang the little nub of steel until it comes flying away from the hub with an anticlimactic plink, just a soft metal noise. The lug landing in the small dimple marks in the dust from the drops of sweat falling off your chin. —Wait, wait. Just a second, he says. 10

He leans over, jiggling the handle on the inside, at the same time I stand outside trying to get the little silver button to depress with my thumb. —Pull now, he says. Give it a good yank. That's right. Get that skinny body behind it. Use your foot. I put my boot on the chassis, put a good shoulder behind the pull. — Pull, he says. I knew the door was going to open, the way you know a balloon is going to be loud when it pops, but even so I wasn't ready. -Fuck! —Jesus Christ. You all right^ A couple of bottles clink together as he shifts to look at my face through the window. —That sounded like it hurt, he says. Man sakes, I ought to fix that door. He pulls up a brown-paper napkin from the seat and offers it to me. —Is it bleeding? he asks. Let me get a good look at it. Didn't break your nose did you? You might need stitches. He slides across the seat, one eye squinted, neck bent like he's trying to slide his vision between my palm and face. •r-They have a Nurse Practitioner up in Escondido, he says. I can take you. She's better at shit like coughs and loose bowels, but she can sew a pretty good stitch if she has to. Hop in here, he says, let me help you with the door. He checks up and down the highway, pausing while a tractor trailer comes by, his door opening as if sucked open by the wake of air behind the huge truck. A small sprig of tumble weed flips up, clinging to his beard. He pulls at his chin to rake out all the debris. Hitching his pants, he comes around the front of the truck, wiping the dust off the ram-head hood ornament, flicking a moistened thumb across the tip of the ram's nose. —Don't feel safe walking out here on the shoulder, he says, all those big trucks bearing down on you. Stopping and looking at me, he cocks one hip, pries out a can of snuff from his back pocket. •-Man, you're going to have one hell of a bump. You have a nice red mark already. Go on. Check it out for yourself. He pulls the side 11


So Much a Circle

S o

M u c h

a

C i r c l e

Michael Stockham

G

enerally I like to see a man's face before I start checking out his lugs, but today it's hot. I've been sitting on the edge of the highway since the sun first turned that arcwhite of midday. Without a tree in sight, I slide down to a good, firm lying sprawl, my spine loosening in those jellied lines of heat undulating in the layer of mirage that hovers like a ghost above asphalt. I've taken the precaution of placing my sign, "Albuquerque Bound," over my head, kind of half-bent, in an attempt at token protection, so when the truck stops, all I see are his lugs, the rust on the bottom runners of his algae-green pick-up, and a couple of those chrome-titty-bitch placards glued to his rear mud flaps. Lugs don't get that way from a normal kind of use. All bent up, banged up and generally fucked over, the man behind the wrench frustrated, upset or just not paying attention, boogering the ears off that nut until it's so much a circle that not even the Tire Fairy with that magic pixie dust, a crinkle of her nose and a shake of her ass could back it off. The only thing to do is take a sledge and bang the little nub of steel until it comes flying away from the hub with an anticlimactic plink, just a soft metal noise. The lug landing in the small dimple marks in the dust from the drops of sweat falling off your chin. —Wait, wait. Just a second, he says. 10

He leans over, jiggling the handle on the inside, at the same time I stand outside trying to get the little silver button to depress with my thumb. —Pull now, he says. Give it a good yank. That's right. Get that skinny body behind it. Use your foot. I put my boot on the chassis, put a good shoulder behind the pull. — Pull, he says. I knew the door was going to open, the way you know a balloon is going to be loud when it pops, but even so I wasn't ready. -Fuck! —Jesus Christ. You all right^ A couple of bottles clink together as he shifts to look at my face through the window. —That sounded like it hurt, he says. Man sakes, I ought to fix that door. He pulls up a brown-paper napkin from the seat and offers it to me. —Is it bleeding? he asks. Let me get a good look at it. Didn't break your nose did you? You might need stitches. He slides across the seat, one eye squinted, neck bent like he's trying to slide his vision between my palm and face. •r-They have a Nurse Practitioner up in Escondido, he says. I can take you. She's better at shit like coughs and loose bowels, but she can sew a pretty good stitch if she has to. Hop in here, he says, let me help you with the door. He checks up and down the highway, pausing while a tractor trailer comes by, his door opening as if sucked open by the wake of air behind the huge truck. A small sprig of tumble weed flips up, clinging to his beard. He pulls at his chin to rake out all the debris. Hitching his pants, he comes around the front of the truck, wiping the dust off the ram-head hood ornament, flicking a moistened thumb across the tip of the ram's nose. —Don't feel safe walking out here on the shoulder, he says, all those big trucks bearing down on you. Stopping and looking at me, he cocks one hip, pries out a can of snuff from his back pocket. •-Man, you're going to have one hell of a bump. You have a nice red mark already. Go on. Check it out for yourself. He pulls the side 11


Berkeley Fiction Review mirror out a bit so I can see. — No thanks, I say, I can tell it hurts. Looking at my finger tips, I say, it's not going to need stitches. —No way no how. Looks like you're going to be all right. He wiggles his right boot like he's trying to get a pebble to slide around inside. — Hey now, let me get that door for you. It's all bent to shit since I had that radio stolen. He spits on the truck tire. —Piece of shit, he says. He places the snuff in his shirt pocket. —You want I should put my bag in the back, I say. — No matter, go on ahead, just mind where you throw it. Dog shit. Lulu ate something or got herself a worm, give her the runs something awful. I climb in the truck, my small duffle and bedroll between my legs, shut the door. He gives it a good smack from the outside, looks through the window, one hand blocking the sun. —You too hot? Might want to roll it down. His voice muffled by the glass. He points up at the sky. He's built slight, one of those men with a belly and no ass, back pockets just hanging and flapping on nothing, his denim shirt, salt-bleached around the sweat stains, a rag of a bandanna tied around his collar with a tight, tiny knot. The sun has worn him, setting his eyes in deep, thick wrinkles, the chest hair near his neck, gray against his umber skin. Crammed into the floorboards are beer bottles, soda cans, and a used oil funnel leaving a small, dark stain on the cracked leather of my boots. It shifts when he swings open the door, the roar of another eighteen-wheeler in the distance. —We'll wait until this big bad boy comes on by and then pop on out. Pushing trash off onto the floor, he says, make yourself at home. Get a good clean spot to sit. He drops a half-eaten fruit pie behind the seat and offers his hand up, a wide yellow grin between hk mustache and beard, teeth chipped from biting things he shouldn't. — P.W. Freemore. — Cratie, I say. .. —Well Cratie, I'm headed as far as Las Lunas, you're welcome to ride. Get you up about another forty miles. Starting up the engine and 12

So Much a Circle looking in his rearview mirror for traffic, P.W. flinches at the hulk of a semi winging by. —Damn those things are loud, he says, makes me rattle just being next to them. P.W. drops his truck into first and begins to edge out on the road, the rattle of a loose u-joint turning into a whine as he shifts. —Looks like the day's going to get cool, he says, rain by the time we hit town. P.W.'s right. There are pale gray clouds swelling out of a haze to the north, the summer evening rains. I always find them a blessing, the way single drops show up on the thirsty red clay; and little by little the dust gets padded down in a rufous mosaic. —You live in Las Lunas, P.W.? —Yes sir, yes I do. He pulls his mustache, says, just outside to the south. My father Jebidiah Freemore started sheeping down here in forty-seven, and me, well I, I've been here ever since. He spits out the window, wipes the last dab of juice from the curl of his bottom lip, the denim cuff of his shirt wrapped with a light brown stain. —Sheeping's a hard life. I could, use a lot more fucking and a world of sleeping. Squinting one eye and shrugging his shoulder, he says, who couldn't. - B i g ? I ask. P.W. looks vexed. —The ranch, I say, is it big? —Well shit yeah. Can't go raising sheep in a back yard. 1 mean it isn't no fucking Texas cattle ranch, but it's a good chunk of land for a man. —You work it by yourself? I ask. No hired hancjs or nothing? — Hell yeah. I guess time to time Lhave to go and hire someone, mostly to mend fences. Sometimes in, the fall, sometimes in thespring. Never in the winter. A man could freeze his nuts mending fence late November. P.W. shivers like he's imagining the cold then digs into his bottom lip for the snuff, flings it out the window, cleaning hisiinger on the door panel. Reaching for a metal lighter from the dash, he flips open the top, then places a filterless cigarette in the corner of his mouth, shreds of tobacco falling on his blue-jeans. 13


Berkeley Fiction Review mirror out a bit so I can see. — No thanks, I say, I can tell it hurts. Looking at my finger tips, I say, it's not going to need stitches. —No way no how. Looks like you're going to be all right. He wiggles his right boot like he's trying to get a pebble to slide around inside. — Hey now, let me get that door for you. It's all bent to shit since I had that radio stolen. He spits on the truck tire. —Piece of shit, he says. He places the snuff in his shirt pocket. —You want I should put my bag in the back, I say. — No matter, go on ahead, just mind where you throw it. Dog shit. Lulu ate something or got herself a worm, give her the runs something awful. I climb in the truck, my small duffle and bedroll between my legs, shut the door. He gives it a good smack from the outside, looks through the window, one hand blocking the sun. —You too hot? Might want to roll it down. His voice muffled by the glass. He points up at the sky. He's built slight, one of those men with a belly and no ass, back pockets just hanging and flapping on nothing, his denim shirt, salt-bleached around the sweat stains, a rag of a bandanna tied around his collar with a tight, tiny knot. The sun has worn him, setting his eyes in deep, thick wrinkles, the chest hair near his neck, gray against his umber skin. Crammed into the floorboards are beer bottles, soda cans, and a used oil funnel leaving a small, dark stain on the cracked leather of my boots. It shifts when he swings open the door, the roar of another eighteen-wheeler in the distance. —We'll wait until this big bad boy comes on by and then pop on out. Pushing trash off onto the floor, he says, make yourself at home. Get a good clean spot to sit. He drops a half-eaten fruit pie behind the seat and offers his hand up, a wide yellow grin between hk mustache and beard, teeth chipped from biting things he shouldn't. — P.W. Freemore. — Cratie, I say. .. —Well Cratie, I'm headed as far as Las Lunas, you're welcome to ride. Get you up about another forty miles. Starting up the engine and 12

So Much a Circle looking in his rearview mirror for traffic, P.W. flinches at the hulk of a semi winging by. —Damn those things are loud, he says, makes me rattle just being next to them. P.W. drops his truck into first and begins to edge out on the road, the rattle of a loose u-joint turning into a whine as he shifts. —Looks like the day's going to get cool, he says, rain by the time we hit town. P.W.'s right. There are pale gray clouds swelling out of a haze to the north, the summer evening rains. I always find them a blessing, the way single drops show up on the thirsty red clay; and little by little the dust gets padded down in a rufous mosaic. —You live in Las Lunas, P.W.? —Yes sir, yes I do. He pulls his mustache, says, just outside to the south. My father Jebidiah Freemore started sheeping down here in forty-seven, and me, well I, I've been here ever since. He spits out the window, wipes the last dab of juice from the curl of his bottom lip, the denim cuff of his shirt wrapped with a light brown stain. —Sheeping's a hard life. I could, use a lot more fucking and a world of sleeping. Squinting one eye and shrugging his shoulder, he says, who couldn't. - B i g ? I ask. P.W. looks vexed. —The ranch, I say, is it big? —Well shit yeah. Can't go raising sheep in a back yard. 1 mean it isn't no fucking Texas cattle ranch, but it's a good chunk of land for a man. —You work it by yourself? I ask. No hired hancjs or nothing? — Hell yeah. I guess time to time Lhave to go and hire someone, mostly to mend fences. Sometimes in, the fall, sometimes in thespring. Never in the winter. A man could freeze his nuts mending fence late November. P.W. shivers like he's imagining the cold then digs into his bottom lip for the snuff, flings it out the window, cleaning hisiinger on the door panel. Reaching for a metal lighter from the dash, he flips open the top, then places a filterless cigarette in the corner of his mouth, shreds of tobacco falling on his blue-jeans. 13


Berkeley Fiction Review — Steer, he says. Takes his hands off the wheel. P.W. starts trying to get the lighter to work, banging it on his thigh in between attempts, until the oily yellow flame comes fluttering off the wick. The wind whips a cellophane wrapper out the open window. —Why the hell you curious about sheeping? —Just asking, I say. I mean, the only picture I have of sheeping is a bunch of oversexed men chasing sheep with a crook. P.W. chuckles. —Yeah, I guess we got a good reputation for fucking the merchandise. Although, I'll bet you didn't know that in pure anatomical construction, the sheep's vagina is the closest of all other mammals to the human female. He smiles, points a finger at me. — I'm serious, I read that. They proved it up in Wyoming in one of their fancy research facilities. —There's a good use for money, I say. —You better believe, he says. In the distance I can see the isolated sheets of rain. P.W. looks at me, flicks the sweat off the side of his nose with his thumb, and looks back at me, from boot to cap, and then straight into my eyes. His are gray, working outdoors has burned all the color out of them. The southern hills of New Mexico are deformed meadows, large and jutting. Some are ringed around the top with juniper. The grass turns color with the day's progression, a cool blue-green in the morning, through yellow and brown, finally to the rose of sunset. I always want to see deer or ibex, something running, living", but that's rare. My father taught me to spin-fish in the reservoir twenty miles southeast of the countryside P.W. and I are driving through. Dad would throw out a simple yellow grub strung along the spine on a size six lead head or a Mepps Black Fury size one. The lake was mostly flat during the hot still of the afternoon, the black bass lethargic and deep. Nothing seemed to move except the occasional copper flash of a carp sliding away in front of your footsteps, its only sound a few bubbles knocked from the pungent mud with a flip of its broad tail, the sudden motion startling. Sometimes Dad and I would fish close enough to talk to one another, my father's words drawn out, sort of slurred from his total concentration on the brush, the water, any clue to point out a moving fish. Other times, it seemed we were too far apart to call to the other for help. And I would become still as the lake, just one more mirage in the large flat 14

So Much a Circle of water, knowing I was invisible. It's .that calm I am after. I reach into the center of my bed roll, pull out two cans of beer. My wrist catches the top half of a dirty white envelope, drawing it cut from the thick cotton folds. I'd wrapped it in with my wallet when I'd packed this morning; it's uncomfortable to sit on asphalt with a wallet digging into the meat of your rump. —You want a beer P.W.? —Don't mind I do. It's past suppertime. He grabs the golden can, pops the top, and holds it out over the gear shift, the tan froth washing pathways through the dust on the floor. —Good God, he says, makes a mess, it been sitting awhile? I don't answer. I'm midway into a good draught, the heated beer thick, the malt almost like syrup on my tongue. I see the envelope sticking from the middle of my sleeping bag. The paper is now delicate from having been folded a million different times, stuffed in my pocket day after day while I took clients out fishing in the Caribbean— the flats off Little Cayman; the Island salt water etched the white paper yellow, the bending worked the sea salt deep into the paper fiber. The creases gathered dirt, the envelope now a map of my indecision. I lost the letter about^ix months ago chasing barracuda off of Long Boat Point, the envelope washing up near the beached skiff. I haven't eaten much today; the alcohol numbs the back of my neck, dissipates into my head. The beer makes me thirstier, but the haze is a welcome relief from the stiffness. I'd been sitting on the roadside since morning, after sleeping on the ground all night. The air cools off a bit. We head toward the rain, it looks motionless, falling on the horizon like whisper-thin sheets of purple marble occasionally veined with the rose blood of lightning. We're getting close enough to smell the precipitation, the thick sweetness of moisture in the desert. I sit back, close my eyes, take in a deep breath, let it out as a sigh; I am anxious like the weather and can feel my own electricity scattering through the small of my back. For an instant, in the smells of the dampening desert, I think I can smell Elise, the sage a hit sweet in the rain. I am headed home. I walked away, sailed away, from my job on Little Cayman two weeks ago. I had gotten drunk with a friend of mine, Harry Lang, and started in again about the many smiles Elise has, the smell of her body 15


Berkeley Fiction Review — Steer, he says. Takes his hands off the wheel. P.W. starts trying to get the lighter to work, banging it on his thigh in between attempts, until the oily yellow flame comes fluttering off the wick. The wind whips a cellophane wrapper out the open window. —Why the hell you curious about sheeping? —Just asking, I say. I mean, the only picture I have of sheeping is a bunch of oversexed men chasing sheep with a crook. P.W. chuckles. —Yeah, I guess we got a good reputation for fucking the merchandise. Although, I'll bet you didn't know that in pure anatomical construction, the sheep's vagina is the closest of all other mammals to the human female. He smiles, points a finger at me. — I'm serious, I read that. They proved it up in Wyoming in one of their fancy research facilities. —There's a good use for money, I say. —You better believe, he says. In the distance I can see the isolated sheets of rain. P.W. looks at me, flicks the sweat off the side of his nose with his thumb, and looks back at me, from boot to cap, and then straight into my eyes. His are gray, working outdoors has burned all the color out of them. The southern hills of New Mexico are deformed meadows, large and jutting. Some are ringed around the top with juniper. The grass turns color with the day's progression, a cool blue-green in the morning, through yellow and brown, finally to the rose of sunset. I always want to see deer or ibex, something running, living", but that's rare. My father taught me to spin-fish in the reservoir twenty miles southeast of the countryside P.W. and I are driving through. Dad would throw out a simple yellow grub strung along the spine on a size six lead head or a Mepps Black Fury size one. The lake was mostly flat during the hot still of the afternoon, the black bass lethargic and deep. Nothing seemed to move except the occasional copper flash of a carp sliding away in front of your footsteps, its only sound a few bubbles knocked from the pungent mud with a flip of its broad tail, the sudden motion startling. Sometimes Dad and I would fish close enough to talk to one another, my father's words drawn out, sort of slurred from his total concentration on the brush, the water, any clue to point out a moving fish. Other times, it seemed we were too far apart to call to the other for help. And I would become still as the lake, just one more mirage in the large flat 14

So Much a Circle of water, knowing I was invisible. It's .that calm I am after. I reach into the center of my bed roll, pull out two cans of beer. My wrist catches the top half of a dirty white envelope, drawing it cut from the thick cotton folds. I'd wrapped it in with my wallet when I'd packed this morning; it's uncomfortable to sit on asphalt with a wallet digging into the meat of your rump. —You want a beer P.W.? —Don't mind I do. It's past suppertime. He grabs the golden can, pops the top, and holds it out over the gear shift, the tan froth washing pathways through the dust on the floor. —Good God, he says, makes a mess, it been sitting awhile? I don't answer. I'm midway into a good draught, the heated beer thick, the malt almost like syrup on my tongue. I see the envelope sticking from the middle of my sleeping bag. The paper is now delicate from having been folded a million different times, stuffed in my pocket day after day while I took clients out fishing in the Caribbean— the flats off Little Cayman; the Island salt water etched the white paper yellow, the bending worked the sea salt deep into the paper fiber. The creases gathered dirt, the envelope now a map of my indecision. I lost the letter about^ix months ago chasing barracuda off of Long Boat Point, the envelope washing up near the beached skiff. I haven't eaten much today; the alcohol numbs the back of my neck, dissipates into my head. The beer makes me thirstier, but the haze is a welcome relief from the stiffness. I'd been sitting on the roadside since morning, after sleeping on the ground all night. The air cools off a bit. We head toward the rain, it looks motionless, falling on the horizon like whisper-thin sheets of purple marble occasionally veined with the rose blood of lightning. We're getting close enough to smell the precipitation, the thick sweetness of moisture in the desert. I sit back, close my eyes, take in a deep breath, let it out as a sigh; I am anxious like the weather and can feel my own electricity scattering through the small of my back. For an instant, in the smells of the dampening desert, I think I can smell Elise, the sage a hit sweet in the rain. I am headed home. I walked away, sailed away, from my job on Little Cayman two weeks ago. I had gotten drunk with a friend of mine, Harry Lang, and started in again about the many smiles Elise has, the smell of her body 15


Berkeley Fiction Review after we make love, especially in the summer when her breasts are damp with salt-sour sweat, the moist warmth against my cheek. Harry told me to get a bag and stuff, said he was sick of my bitching. We cast off in his boat and sailed for the States. Harry liked me because I fish well. Men like him are always looking for a person to teach them how to be better at leisure sports. He used to live in St. Petersburg, Florida until he had some tax trouble. He declared bankruptcy, flew to the Caymans where he had stashed most of his money, bought the Dynamo—the boat we were in. He registered it under the Honduran flag. I don't know how. Harry gets up every morning, stands on the bow of the Dynamo, downs a shot of rum, throwing a finger in the direction of America. He is a man of rituals. He decided to take me into Galveston. From there I've been hiding my head from the sun with a cardboard sign that says, "Albuquerque Bound," and sleeping off the side of the road at night. I called my boss, Tyson, when I hit El Paso. He was pissed, but I was already on the mainland. He told me he would sell off all my equipment. I told him fine and hung up. Tyson's a drunk; he'll set my stuff in a closet until I tell him where to ship it. P.W. spits out the window, the wind catapulting the gob back into the cab. It splats next to me on the vinyl seat. P.W. quickly picks up one of the napkins he had offered me before and wipes it up, tossing the crumpled mess on the floor next to his feet. — Sorry, he says. — No harm. I take another large swallow of beer, and look in the mirror outside my window. The storms have encircled us; it seems like no matter which way we go we will be swallowed by water. I feel goose bumps across my chest, chill air flapping through my sweat-stained shirt, the salt from my upper lip nice against the bitter beer foam. The crossbreeze begins to work its way through the cab, rattling the envelope. Reaching forward, I tuck it back inside the bedroll, a small bit of the disintegrating flap coming off in my hand. —That a letter from your wife? P.W. asks. — Don't have one. Why? —Just a hunch. A man doesn't save a letter like that, all beat up, bent out of shape, less it was from someone worth thinking about. 16

So Much a Circle He takes a swig of beer. —She have a name? he asks. —Elise. —Yeah. The way you say that name, she must be awfully pretty. Must be something. Someone worth traveling for. I tell you boy, you're terribly dirty, terribly, terribly dirty. —Been sleeping out lately, I say. —How long you been gone? —Two years. I can imagine the soft curve of Elise's hip; it's been a long time. I can smell her perfume—almost citrus, feel the long warm curve of her back against my belly, a passing word in the roar of the wind outside the truck window, her image awash in the blood red sunrise this morning. —You married P.W.? I ask. —No. I mean I used to be, he says, but she fucking up and left. Guess she didn't like sheeping. He lights another cigarette, this time using his elbows to steady the wheel. He exhales slowly, the smoke falling out of his mouth, twisting in his beard, the way I imagine a memory twisting its way back to life. I close my eyes and picture myself, alone, wading the warm mudflat at the, southern side of Little Cayman. The water still as a hot August noon. My heartbeat somewhere in the air around me. The clouds growing out of a line on the slick blue horizon. There's just the steady pluck of my lure, the click of the bail on the reel, the whir of me jigging the line in, a cadence in a melancholy stillness. I try to memorize the bottom structures of this flat, the sea rearranging at her will. It is easy to look through the clear water, mangrove leaves, turtle grass, and twigs in various stages of decay. Each step brings the sour odor of rot. Nothing is moving and I create a muted footprint soon melted from the saturated sand. In my vision, I see a breeze coming, the water rippling a hundred yards off, and I close my eyes, open my mouth slightly as if waiting for a rain in thirst. I stand in silence, the wind approaching, the water salty, musky. Hearing a voice, the memory becomes still, an impotent picture. —Cratie, P.W. says, how come you're so sure this woman is going to be nice when you come back after being gone so long? 17


Berkeley Fiction Review after we make love, especially in the summer when her breasts are damp with salt-sour sweat, the moist warmth against my cheek. Harry told me to get a bag and stuff, said he was sick of my bitching. We cast off in his boat and sailed for the States. Harry liked me because I fish well. Men like him are always looking for a person to teach them how to be better at leisure sports. He used to live in St. Petersburg, Florida until he had some tax trouble. He declared bankruptcy, flew to the Caymans where he had stashed most of his money, bought the Dynamo—the boat we were in. He registered it under the Honduran flag. I don't know how. Harry gets up every morning, stands on the bow of the Dynamo, downs a shot of rum, throwing a finger in the direction of America. He is a man of rituals. He decided to take me into Galveston. From there I've been hiding my head from the sun with a cardboard sign that says, "Albuquerque Bound," and sleeping off the side of the road at night. I called my boss, Tyson, when I hit El Paso. He was pissed, but I was already on the mainland. He told me he would sell off all my equipment. I told him fine and hung up. Tyson's a drunk; he'll set my stuff in a closet until I tell him where to ship it. P.W. spits out the window, the wind catapulting the gob back into the cab. It splats next to me on the vinyl seat. P.W. quickly picks up one of the napkins he had offered me before and wipes it up, tossing the crumpled mess on the floor next to his feet. — Sorry, he says. — No harm. I take another large swallow of beer, and look in the mirror outside my window. The storms have encircled us; it seems like no matter which way we go we will be swallowed by water. I feel goose bumps across my chest, chill air flapping through my sweat-stained shirt, the salt from my upper lip nice against the bitter beer foam. The crossbreeze begins to work its way through the cab, rattling the envelope. Reaching forward, I tuck it back inside the bedroll, a small bit of the disintegrating flap coming off in my hand. —That a letter from your wife? P.W. asks. — Don't have one. Why? —Just a hunch. A man doesn't save a letter like that, all beat up, bent out of shape, less it was from someone worth thinking about. 16

So Much a Circle He takes a swig of beer. —She have a name? he asks. —Elise. —Yeah. The way you say that name, she must be awfully pretty. Must be something. Someone worth traveling for. I tell you boy, you're terribly dirty, terribly, terribly dirty. —Been sleeping out lately, I say. —How long you been gone? —Two years. I can imagine the soft curve of Elise's hip; it's been a long time. I can smell her perfume—almost citrus, feel the long warm curve of her back against my belly, a passing word in the roar of the wind outside the truck window, her image awash in the blood red sunrise this morning. —You married P.W.? I ask. —No. I mean I used to be, he says, but she fucking up and left. Guess she didn't like sheeping. He lights another cigarette, this time using his elbows to steady the wheel. He exhales slowly, the smoke falling out of his mouth, twisting in his beard, the way I imagine a memory twisting its way back to life. I close my eyes and picture myself, alone, wading the warm mudflat at the, southern side of Little Cayman. The water still as a hot August noon. My heartbeat somewhere in the air around me. The clouds growing out of a line on the slick blue horizon. There's just the steady pluck of my lure, the click of the bail on the reel, the whir of me jigging the line in, a cadence in a melancholy stillness. I try to memorize the bottom structures of this flat, the sea rearranging at her will. It is easy to look through the clear water, mangrove leaves, turtle grass, and twigs in various stages of decay. Each step brings the sour odor of rot. Nothing is moving and I create a muted footprint soon melted from the saturated sand. In my vision, I see a breeze coming, the water rippling a hundred yards off, and I close my eyes, open my mouth slightly as if waiting for a rain in thirst. I stand in silence, the wind approaching, the water salty, musky. Hearing a voice, the memory becomes still, an impotent picture. —Cratie, P.W. says, how come you're so sure this woman is going to be nice when you come back after being gone so long? 17


Berkeley Fiction Review He takes off his cap and rubs the perspiration from his forehead on the cuff of his shirt. — I haven't ever seen the woman that wouldn't hate you for awhile for being gone forever, he says. I mean a woman forgive like that, she don't deserve to be forgotten in the first place. —The last time I saw Elise, it was morning, I say. I was helping my father renovate a couple of houses he'd been renting to students. I motion toward P.W.'s cigarette pack, he motions back. I pick it up, pull one out and set it on my lip, not lighting it yet, tasting the little bits of tobacco. —Anyway, that morning I couldn't sleep. Just lay there in pain from drinking too much the night before. I wanted to sleep. My head still spinning a bit. A semi passes us, skittering gravel up against the side. —Elise, I say, has long, straight hair, and it has this tendency to spread out, sticking to the sheets, to sweat, to almost anything. Anyway, I had to pee so bad, I finally drug myself out of bed and stumbled toward the bathroom. There're cigarette ashes all over the place, an ashtray knocked over. Her dress, my pants, hell, everything was just thrown about any-which-a-way. — Sounds like a night. — It was. I walked into the bathroom and while I'm standing there pissing I look in the mirror. My eyes had these black bags under them, and there was this large, purple bruise on my cheek, with a tiny cut. —I bet it was a ring, P.W. says. She wearing a ring? -Yes. —Damn that hurts. —Anyway, I get a glass of water, and start chugging it down. She lives in one of those old apartment buildings, so it tasted sort of like iron. But, I don't care you know. P.W. nods. I say, I'm so thirsty it tastes real good, the cold water against my throat, the chill helping out my aching head. I'm so into my water I didn't hear her get up. She goes, Cratie? You been up long? I didn't say anything. Started gargling just as she shows up in the doorway, naked, leaning against the jamb. P.W. whistles, and I wonder what he pictures her looking like. —She goes, Cratie, I'm sorry. Sometimes things just well up. Then she started touching her face in the same place my bruise was. She goes, Does it hurt? I spit into the sink and I go, It's a bruise. P.W., I 11

So Much a Circle don't know why what happened next happened. -Well? — She swung at the.glass I was drinking from and knocked it into the shower. I mean it broke into a million little fucking pieces. She goes, I'm trying to be nice. You're such a shit. Then she hit me square in the chest. Then I mostly blacked out. All I saw was my fist moving, and her body twisting from the blow. —Damn, he says. —P.W., it knotted my stomach. That awful crack of her face against the door. —Yeah, it don't take too long to cause a world of hurt. —Two years of hurt. —Love's a funny thing, P.W. says. Hell I had a woman freak out one time and cut me up with a hoe. He pulls his shirt tail out, a jagged purple scar etched into his ribs. —Looks like you did something wrong. —I don't know what I did, she just up and freaked out. P.W. takes a long draw from the beer he's had riding in his lap. —Hell, he says, I dated this one dancer, crazier than a shit house rat, but flexible. She could spread her legs flat in the splits. P. W draws a straight line in the dust in the dash. I mean it didn't hurt her or nothing, he says. We could do it up against a wall, one high-heeled foot over my shoulder, the other one on the ground. Pulling his cap off and running his fingers through his hair, he says, but she up and left too. Next day I find a rock through the window of my truck, a big capital T and a capital D written in magic marker. - T D ? I ask. —Yeah, that's what I thought. I'd think about it for hours, out on a horse or just eating a TV dinner at home. Never did figure it out until that bitch sent me. a postcard from California. He switches hands on the steering wheel and points his finger off to the west. He says, It was a picture of these three topless blondes on a beach. On the back she'd written, "Tiny Dick." P.W. wipes a drop of beer from his chin. That isn't right, he says, a woman saying that kind of shit about a man. —No, I say, that isn't right. I touch the cheek where Elise had hit me. There is a small scar. —Seems love only runs in spurts. —If it's running, I say. 19


Berkeley Fiction Review He takes off his cap and rubs the perspiration from his forehead on the cuff of his shirt. — I haven't ever seen the woman that wouldn't hate you for awhile for being gone forever, he says. I mean a woman forgive like that, she don't deserve to be forgotten in the first place. —The last time I saw Elise, it was morning, I say. I was helping my father renovate a couple of houses he'd been renting to students. I motion toward P.W.'s cigarette pack, he motions back. I pick it up, pull one out and set it on my lip, not lighting it yet, tasting the little bits of tobacco. —Anyway, that morning I couldn't sleep. Just lay there in pain from drinking too much the night before. I wanted to sleep. My head still spinning a bit. A semi passes us, skittering gravel up against the side. —Elise, I say, has long, straight hair, and it has this tendency to spread out, sticking to the sheets, to sweat, to almost anything. Anyway, I had to pee so bad, I finally drug myself out of bed and stumbled toward the bathroom. There're cigarette ashes all over the place, an ashtray knocked over. Her dress, my pants, hell, everything was just thrown about any-which-a-way. — Sounds like a night. — It was. I walked into the bathroom and while I'm standing there pissing I look in the mirror. My eyes had these black bags under them, and there was this large, purple bruise on my cheek, with a tiny cut. —I bet it was a ring, P.W. says. She wearing a ring? -Yes. —Damn that hurts. —Anyway, I get a glass of water, and start chugging it down. She lives in one of those old apartment buildings, so it tasted sort of like iron. But, I don't care you know. P.W. nods. I say, I'm so thirsty it tastes real good, the cold water against my throat, the chill helping out my aching head. I'm so into my water I didn't hear her get up. She goes, Cratie? You been up long? I didn't say anything. Started gargling just as she shows up in the doorway, naked, leaning against the jamb. P.W. whistles, and I wonder what he pictures her looking like. —She goes, Cratie, I'm sorry. Sometimes things just well up. Then she started touching her face in the same place my bruise was. She goes, Does it hurt? I spit into the sink and I go, It's a bruise. P.W., I 11

So Much a Circle don't know why what happened next happened. -Well? — She swung at the.glass I was drinking from and knocked it into the shower. I mean it broke into a million little fucking pieces. She goes, I'm trying to be nice. You're such a shit. Then she hit me square in the chest. Then I mostly blacked out. All I saw was my fist moving, and her body twisting from the blow. —Damn, he says. —P.W., it knotted my stomach. That awful crack of her face against the door. —Yeah, it don't take too long to cause a world of hurt. —Two years of hurt. —Love's a funny thing, P.W. says. Hell I had a woman freak out one time and cut me up with a hoe. He pulls his shirt tail out, a jagged purple scar etched into his ribs. —Looks like you did something wrong. —I don't know what I did, she just up and freaked out. P.W. takes a long draw from the beer he's had riding in his lap. —Hell, he says, I dated this one dancer, crazier than a shit house rat, but flexible. She could spread her legs flat in the splits. P. W draws a straight line in the dust in the dash. I mean it didn't hurt her or nothing, he says. We could do it up against a wall, one high-heeled foot over my shoulder, the other one on the ground. Pulling his cap off and running his fingers through his hair, he says, but she up and left too. Next day I find a rock through the window of my truck, a big capital T and a capital D written in magic marker. - T D ? I ask. —Yeah, that's what I thought. I'd think about it for hours, out on a horse or just eating a TV dinner at home. Never did figure it out until that bitch sent me. a postcard from California. He switches hands on the steering wheel and points his finger off to the west. He says, It was a picture of these three topless blondes on a beach. On the back she'd written, "Tiny Dick." P.W. wipes a drop of beer from his chin. That isn't right, he says, a woman saying that kind of shit about a man. —No, I say, that isn't right. I touch the cheek where Elise had hit me. There is a small scar. —Seems love only runs in spurts. —If it's running, I say. 19


Berkeley Fiction Review P.W.'s beard fills out with a smile, his eyes squinting in mock seriousness. He pulls two bottles of beer from under the front of his seat, hands them to me. I rub away the rust and twist the caps off, the warm beer foaming out onto the seat as I hand one to P.W. I turn my face into the wind, shut my eyes and swallow. —You ever know for certain someone you love is going to be around? I ask. — Sometimes love just runs past you, he says. — But isn't love supposed to be sort of solid? —Love doesn't have to stay put. I mean Cratie, there was this one night, he says, this one night I was sure it was love. Even the weather seemed to know it. He puts a large pinch of snuff in his lip, spits on the floor. — I mean that night had a wild orange moon. P.W. picks up the lighter, twirling it between his thumb and forefinger. —I'd met this woman, he says, Christi, down at Jack's Lounge. We're dancing, she's grinding up against my Johnson. P.W.'s rocking his hips, illustrating her movements. We both start to laugh. — I take her out to the truck and start driving her toward the house. But she's too ready. She makes me pull over at the rest stop, starts tearing off her clothes as she runs over to a picnic table under a giant weeping willow. She starts screaming, Fuck me now! Fuck me hard! So I start howling to let her know I'm in the mood. P.W. howls in the truck, banging his palm against the steering wheel like he's making fun of himself in heat. The beer is more bitter as it gets warmer. His actions are too much like a beast getting ready to rut, the veins in his forearms swelling as he grips tighter and tighter to the steering wheel. I grimace as I picture his hands on Elise. — I'm fast after her man, he says. Her nails scratching on concrete. Whole place smelling like whiskey. She pulls me out and tells me to stick it in her ass. Too much for me man, the sweat, and smell of sex all over the place. Last thing I remember is that phrase, Fuck my ass P.W. He sighs and starts shaking his head, flicking a drop of sweat from Kis nose. —Woke up the next morning with my pecker in my hand and my pants around my ankles, and this magpie staring down at me, like it's 20

So Much a Circle waiting tosee if I'll ever move. Never did see Christi again. We zoom past a small, dry acequia that runs under the highway. — Strange how things turn, I say. —Not things, P.W. says, just love. He rubs his mustache and takes a swig of beer, and then looks straight at me. He says, it's funny, I don't think it ever dies. There're just different degrees of living with it. He looks out the window. The first houses of Las Lunas appear as we crest a small ridge hiding the Rio Grande valley from our view, the sun beginning to redden on the edge of evening, the sandstone flaring in the sunset. There are a few thin sheets of rain falling around us. —You want I should leave you at the interstate ramp or you want to head into town, he says. — Drop me at the first filling station you want, I say. —I can take you further, he says. — It's all right, I say. I think I want to get some air, do some walking around you know. —Wait a minute, he says. What am I doing? Albuquerque is just up the road another ten, fifteen miles. I don't mind the trip. —No, that's okay P.W. I want to hold back a while, catch my breath. Think about what I'm going to say. His face looks old to me. His fingers thick, muscular, the nails chewed off, ingrown. —Well all right, he says. Just don't say ole P.W. didn't offer. He flicks on the truck blinker, the small click counting off the asphalt passing under us, a filling station at the bottom of the ramp. P.W. pulls into the drive, his springs banging harshly as he runs his truck across the potholes in the pitted concrete, the chassis creaking. He stops just outside the station office, one old man inside with a huge set of fashion sunglasses, a tiny felt hat. — Here you go. He motions to the man inside. P.W. says, Horatio will take good care of you. Tell you the best time to be trying your thumb up near the highway. I start to jiggle the handle, and give the door a shove. I step out and peer back at P.W. through the door window, his beard changing colors in the light of a neon beer sign flashing behind me. He pushes back his cap and smiles. — Sure you don't want me to take you where you're headed? he asks. It really isn't any trouble, and I'd be glad to do it. 21


Berkeley Fiction Review P.W.'s beard fills out with a smile, his eyes squinting in mock seriousness. He pulls two bottles of beer from under the front of his seat, hands them to me. I rub away the rust and twist the caps off, the warm beer foaming out onto the seat as I hand one to P.W. I turn my face into the wind, shut my eyes and swallow. —You ever know for certain someone you love is going to be around? I ask. — Sometimes love just runs past you, he says. — But isn't love supposed to be sort of solid? —Love doesn't have to stay put. I mean Cratie, there was this one night, he says, this one night I was sure it was love. Even the weather seemed to know it. He puts a large pinch of snuff in his lip, spits on the floor. — I mean that night had a wild orange moon. P.W. picks up the lighter, twirling it between his thumb and forefinger. —I'd met this woman, he says, Christi, down at Jack's Lounge. We're dancing, she's grinding up against my Johnson. P.W.'s rocking his hips, illustrating her movements. We both start to laugh. — I take her out to the truck and start driving her toward the house. But she's too ready. She makes me pull over at the rest stop, starts tearing off her clothes as she runs over to a picnic table under a giant weeping willow. She starts screaming, Fuck me now! Fuck me hard! So I start howling to let her know I'm in the mood. P.W. howls in the truck, banging his palm against the steering wheel like he's making fun of himself in heat. The beer is more bitter as it gets warmer. His actions are too much like a beast getting ready to rut, the veins in his forearms swelling as he grips tighter and tighter to the steering wheel. I grimace as I picture his hands on Elise. — I'm fast after her man, he says. Her nails scratching on concrete. Whole place smelling like whiskey. She pulls me out and tells me to stick it in her ass. Too much for me man, the sweat, and smell of sex all over the place. Last thing I remember is that phrase, Fuck my ass P.W. He sighs and starts shaking his head, flicking a drop of sweat from Kis nose. —Woke up the next morning with my pecker in my hand and my pants around my ankles, and this magpie staring down at me, like it's 20

So Much a Circle waiting tosee if I'll ever move. Never did see Christi again. We zoom past a small, dry acequia that runs under the highway. — Strange how things turn, I say. —Not things, P.W. says, just love. He rubs his mustache and takes a swig of beer, and then looks straight at me. He says, it's funny, I don't think it ever dies. There're just different degrees of living with it. He looks out the window. The first houses of Las Lunas appear as we crest a small ridge hiding the Rio Grande valley from our view, the sun beginning to redden on the edge of evening, the sandstone flaring in the sunset. There are a few thin sheets of rain falling around us. —You want I should leave you at the interstate ramp or you want to head into town, he says. — Drop me at the first filling station you want, I say. —I can take you further, he says. — It's all right, I say. I think I want to get some air, do some walking around you know. —Wait a minute, he says. What am I doing? Albuquerque is just up the road another ten, fifteen miles. I don't mind the trip. —No, that's okay P.W. I want to hold back a while, catch my breath. Think about what I'm going to say. His face looks old to me. His fingers thick, muscular, the nails chewed off, ingrown. —Well all right, he says. Just don't say ole P.W. didn't offer. He flicks on the truck blinker, the small click counting off the asphalt passing under us, a filling station at the bottom of the ramp. P.W. pulls into the drive, his springs banging harshly as he runs his truck across the potholes in the pitted concrete, the chassis creaking. He stops just outside the station office, one old man inside with a huge set of fashion sunglasses, a tiny felt hat. — Here you go. He motions to the man inside. P.W. says, Horatio will take good care of you. Tell you the best time to be trying your thumb up near the highway. I start to jiggle the handle, and give the door a shove. I step out and peer back at P.W. through the door window, his beard changing colors in the light of a neon beer sign flashing behind me. He pushes back his cap and smiles. — Sure you don't want me to take you where you're headed? he asks. It really isn't any trouble, and I'd be glad to do it. 21


Berkeley Fiction Review —No-,'I say, and flush around for something else to add but there isn't anything, just the sound of the signs buzzing around me, a single, tumbleweed rambling across the lot. Thanks for the beer, I say. Thanks. — Likewise Cratie, he says. Then he adds, you might think of taking a shower or something before you see her. —I hope Elise doesn't mind me grubby. I can picture her now, waiting in that front room, a small candle on the dining room table, couple of plates and my favorite meal in the oven. —What meal is it? he asks. A painful calm washes through. I look down and then back into his pale-gray eyes. —I don't know, I say. Dropping his truck into gear, P.W. says good luck, and heads out onto the road and up a hill. He hits his brakes twice around a slow curve and disappears. I buy a quart at the service station, the beer ice-cold, and I start walking. There's an empty lot full of junk next door, a few tires, a fridge without a front, and off by itself, a cracked, cast iron tub. I roll out my bedroll, stretch out inside and stare off into the New Mexico sunset, a flaming orange burn in the rock all around. The rain has made the air cool and sweet, the muddy smell of a large, round pool near the tub, the reflection: the sandstone circling the town, the dull gray of a small rain cloud above me, the heat of the sunset in the distance. In the dull light of sunset I can hardly make out the address on the envelope. Pressing its edges between my palms, I blow it open with a short, terse breath, and touch the empty space inside.

22

First Place Winner Sudden Fiction Contest

T h e

N e w

V i c t o r i a n s

Kolin J.M. Ohi

E

very day around two in the morning, the man across the street stands in front of the window and masturbates. The television casts a flickering blue light, and the man's schnauzer watches from the sofa, almost curious enough to get up. He seems to realize, though, that there's nothing sexual about the performance we're watching—every night the man's face is set in grim concentration, and his expression never changes, as if the ritual is more important than the release, as if masturbating is a necessary evil, like watering the plants or doing the dishes after dinner. My light is usually on, but if he sees me, he never meets my eyes, never acknowledges that I am watching him. It's warm tonight as I walk, though there's mist in the air and the headlights on the cars that pass are ringed with soft halos that make the cars seem out-of-sync with the sound of their tires on the wet asphalt. A man offers to do a flip for a dollar; he flips backwards off a nearby mailbox, lands perfectly and bows modestly, and the smell of fabric softener blows out of the building next to us. He smiles when I hand him a dollar and forgets me before I've turned away. It was a childish, pleased smile, though, and I'm suddenly happy; the Victorians I pass seem suddenly beautiful, the lives lived inside of them suddenly comfortable, inviting. A woman sits in front of a computer, star23


Berkeley Fiction Review —No-,'I say, and flush around for something else to add but there isn't anything, just the sound of the signs buzzing around me, a single, tumbleweed rambling across the lot. Thanks for the beer, I say. Thanks. — Likewise Cratie, he says. Then he adds, you might think of taking a shower or something before you see her. —I hope Elise doesn't mind me grubby. I can picture her now, waiting in that front room, a small candle on the dining room table, couple of plates and my favorite meal in the oven. —What meal is it? he asks. A painful calm washes through. I look down and then back into his pale-gray eyes. —I don't know, I say. Dropping his truck into gear, P.W. says good luck, and heads out onto the road and up a hill. He hits his brakes twice around a slow curve and disappears. I buy a quart at the service station, the beer ice-cold, and I start walking. There's an empty lot full of junk next door, a few tires, a fridge without a front, and off by itself, a cracked, cast iron tub. I roll out my bedroll, stretch out inside and stare off into the New Mexico sunset, a flaming orange burn in the rock all around. The rain has made the air cool and sweet, the muddy smell of a large, round pool near the tub, the reflection: the sandstone circling the town, the dull gray of a small rain cloud above me, the heat of the sunset in the distance. In the dull light of sunset I can hardly make out the address on the envelope. Pressing its edges between my palms, I blow it open with a short, terse breath, and touch the empty space inside.

22

First Place Winner Sudden Fiction Contest

T h e

N e w

V i c t o r i a n s

Kolin J.M. Ohi

E

very day around two in the morning, the man across the street stands in front of the window and masturbates. The television casts a flickering blue light, and the man's schnauzer watches from the sofa, almost curious enough to get up. He seems to realize, though, that there's nothing sexual about the performance we're watching—every night the man's face is set in grim concentration, and his expression never changes, as if the ritual is more important than the release, as if masturbating is a necessary evil, like watering the plants or doing the dishes after dinner. My light is usually on, but if he sees me, he never meets my eyes, never acknowledges that I am watching him. It's warm tonight as I walk, though there's mist in the air and the headlights on the cars that pass are ringed with soft halos that make the cars seem out-of-sync with the sound of their tires on the wet asphalt. A man offers to do a flip for a dollar; he flips backwards off a nearby mailbox, lands perfectly and bows modestly, and the smell of fabric softener blows out of the building next to us. He smiles when I hand him a dollar and forgets me before I've turned away. It was a childish, pleased smile, though, and I'm suddenly happy; the Victorians I pass seem suddenly beautiful, the lives lived inside of them suddenly comfortable, inviting. A woman sits in front of a computer, star23


Berkeley Fiction Review ing above it and tracing the line of her throat with her hand; a man leans close to a closed window, talking on the telephone. As I pass under the window, the man meets my eyes through the glass, catches me staring. He can see that I'm walking alone, that I don't have a dog to walk or an errand to run, that I'm lost. I want to go home—it seems silly to just turn around, but I don't have the heart to invent a reason, so I stop at the next corner, turn back the way I've come, and hope that nobody's noticed. As I walk by again, the same man does another flip off of the mailbox for someone else; again he lands it perfectly, again he smiles a sad, childish smile. Even from the hallway, my apartment still smells like the dinner I ate a few hours ago, and as I walk into the apartment I can hear the muted laughter still coming out of the television, the high-pitched whistle of its tube. At two, the man appears again in his window, and I realize that all over the city people are naked, beautiful and ugly, sweating alone or on top of someone, so I take off my clothes and join him at the window. As I stand there, he finally meets my eyes; when he does, the flickering blue light from the television makes him seem suddenly beautiful, lit from within, and I think I understand the joy of confession, the feeling of God's own eyes on me in all their compassion and forgiveness. The lights of the city spread out in front of me like stars.

F e l l o w

F e e l i n g

Daniel Scott 1. |hilip. Philip Allan Flatley. Why are you doing this?" le just told her why. J L "N< "No," she said. "That's a crock of shit, God forgive me. Made up to make yourself feel good about doing something that you know is bad. It's not enough that you're abandoning your faith, and condemning yourself and probably your whole family, but to blaspheme the entire priesthood. You're not man enough to say, T m too weak to take it.' You have to blame everyone else for your own faults, just like you always have! 'Oh, everybody there is so awful,' and all that, and T m too good for them!'" She turned to her husband. "Imagine that, Chester! We raised a better person than all the other priests in the world? Who'd have thought?" She turned back. "Let me tell you something, Philip. You've never understood the difference between being good and being a goody-goody!" it's important to keep in mind that she's speaking out of pain and that people in pain do not see or think clearly I believe therefore that your words while somehow devastatingly candid still aren't exactly truthful but it's a painful thing I know to realize that your son after all really isn't meant for a life with God that he's meant instead for one involving

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Berkeley Fiction Review ing above it and tracing the line of her throat with her hand; a man leans close to a closed window, talking on the telephone. As I pass under the window, the man meets my eyes through the glass, catches me staring. He can see that I'm walking alone, that I don't have a dog to walk or an errand to run, that I'm lost. I want to go home—it seems silly to just turn around, but I don't have the heart to invent a reason, so I stop at the next corner, turn back the way I've come, and hope that nobody's noticed. As I walk by again, the same man does another flip off of the mailbox for someone else; again he lands it perfectly, again he smiles a sad, childish smile. Even from the hallway, my apartment still smells like the dinner I ate a few hours ago, and as I walk into the apartment I can hear the muted laughter still coming out of the television, the high-pitched whistle of its tube. At two, the man appears again in his window, and I realize that all over the city people are naked, beautiful and ugly, sweating alone or on top of someone, so I take off my clothes and join him at the window. As I stand there, he finally meets my eyes; when he does, the flickering blue light from the television makes him seem suddenly beautiful, lit from within, and I think I understand the joy of confession, the feeling of God's own eyes on me in all their compassion and forgiveness. The lights of the city spread out in front of me like stars.

F e l l o w

F e e l i n g

Daniel Scott 1. |hilip. Philip Allan Flatley. Why are you doing this?" le just told her why. J L "N< "No," she said. "That's a crock of shit, God forgive me. Made up to make yourself feel good about doing something that you know is bad. It's not enough that you're abandoning your faith, and condemning yourself and probably your whole family, but to blaspheme the entire priesthood. You're not man enough to say, T m too weak to take it.' You have to blame everyone else for your own faults, just like you always have! 'Oh, everybody there is so awful,' and all that, and T m too good for them!'" She turned to her husband. "Imagine that, Chester! We raised a better person than all the other priests in the world? Who'd have thought?" She turned back. "Let me tell you something, Philip. You've never understood the difference between being good and being a goody-goody!" it's important to keep in mind that she's speaking out of pain and that people in pain do not see or think clearly I believe therefore that your words while somehow devastatingly candid still aren't exactly truthful but it's a painful thing I know to realize that your son after all really isn't meant for a life with God that he's meant instead for one involving

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Berkeley Fiction Review things you never even dared to think about "I'm not abandoning my faith, Mother," he managed to say, while holding back his tears. "You just said you didn't even want to be a Catholic anymore, didn't you?" there are some things that cannot be said "Yes, but I meant I'm not abandoning my faith in God." "Oh!" She sat back. She'd been clipping coupons when he arrived and they were spread before her on the kitchen table. She folded her hands against her chest, her fingers still lodged in the holes of the scissors, the dirty black blade sticking up at an angle parallel to her jaw. "Well," she said. "I'm sure God feels a lot better knowing that you've decided to still believe in Him some vows cannot be broken You're very arrogant, Philip. Picking and choosing what you want to believe in. "But isn't God the important—" "So you believe in God, big deal. So does the devil." Phil could see now that it was only that he'd been far enough away for a long enough period of time to forget how his parents really were how Mother really is he remembered them her as a caring people person who wanted only what was best for him I must have fabricated that memory wished it he relied too willingly on objects: 15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. the deep blue parka sent for his birthday, worn on the train home; the Christmas geranium, dead now; the ten-dollar donations made to his parish when she could, the check made out to him and not Sacred Heart Church. But they she had to be told. At least now they she knew, even if his reasons did seem feeble cannot be told you don't believe me because 1 haven't told you the half of it cleanse thou me from secret faults. when I was at seminary one of the students formed the Catholic Calling Circle A WEEKLY DISCUSSION GROUP First meeting: Thurs., 8:00 pm, Shine Hall Purpose: to provide a setting where students can give and get support, and talk about the problems that face aspiring clergymen.

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Fellow Feeling loved the student Arthur Antez everyone did faculty students me too Costa Rican he'd lived in the United States since he was one spoke flawless English he was as American as any of us really probably more so he hated4o be called by his Spanish name Arturo still his origins in a foreign land were emphasized enough to make the rest of us believe his piousness was truer than ours I went to Shine Hall that Thursday mostly because I had no one to talk to I didn't say a word but I did feel better just being around the ten or twelve others that showed up listening to their problems several said seminary work was much harder than they expected it would be one man Gerard pale with greasy red hair I recognized him from my Church History class confessed that it was hard keeping his focus with his mother very sick back at home she kept calling to say how proud of him she was and in the next breath she'd say she was dying of loneliness I went up to him after class a few days later and told hint I was praying for him and his mother it's not that unusual a thing to say at a seminary he thanked me by the second meeting I was ready to talk the Circle had shrunk to six or seven Arthur called the meeting to order with an opening prayer a few people spoke then it was my turn I raised my hand Arthur said this isn't class just speak so I did I started with a forthright confession that I am a homosexual Chester reached and put his hand on her forearm, his way of asking her to please calm down. She put her hand on top of his and gripped his bony knuckles 1 doubt she can say you never suspected "I know, hun," she said. "But when I think about the money." Seminary cost nothing, but his first year Phil "borrowed" $2000 from them her to adjust to living on his own. They she objected at first but that was just reflex; deep down there was a knowledge of Phil as oblivious and vulnerable, a blind child who was not yet old enough to know it. "We would have done just as well, Chester, if you'd taken it all up to the Pit and thrown it all in." Phil's father ran the town incinerator until his retirement the year before, the same year Phil was ordained. Since then his lungs, always a problem, rapidly began to break down. He could wheeze out sentences between infusions from an oxygen tube stuck up his nostrils, but usually he chose not to. "We were so proud," said Mother, speaking to some invisible person between her husband and her son. Then she looked Phil straight in the face for the last time and said, "I'll never forgive you." I've never confessed this to anyone beforehut I've decided to now because 27


Berkeley Fiction Review things you never even dared to think about "I'm not abandoning my faith, Mother," he managed to say, while holding back his tears. "You just said you didn't even want to be a Catholic anymore, didn't you?" there are some things that cannot be said "Yes, but I meant I'm not abandoning my faith in God." "Oh!" She sat back. She'd been clipping coupons when he arrived and they were spread before her on the kitchen table. She folded her hands against her chest, her fingers still lodged in the holes of the scissors, the dirty black blade sticking up at an angle parallel to her jaw. "Well," she said. "I'm sure God feels a lot better knowing that you've decided to still believe in Him some vows cannot be broken You're very arrogant, Philip. Picking and choosing what you want to believe in. "But isn't God the important—" "So you believe in God, big deal. So does the devil." Phil could see now that it was only that he'd been far enough away for a long enough period of time to forget how his parents really were how Mother really is he remembered them her as a caring people person who wanted only what was best for him I must have fabricated that memory wished it he relied too willingly on objects: 15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. the deep blue parka sent for his birthday, worn on the train home; the Christmas geranium, dead now; the ten-dollar donations made to his parish when she could, the check made out to him and not Sacred Heart Church. But they she had to be told. At least now they she knew, even if his reasons did seem feeble cannot be told you don't believe me because 1 haven't told you the half of it cleanse thou me from secret faults. when I was at seminary one of the students formed the Catholic Calling Circle A WEEKLY DISCUSSION GROUP First meeting: Thurs., 8:00 pm, Shine Hall Purpose: to provide a setting where students can give and get support, and talk about the problems that face aspiring clergymen.

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Fellow Feeling loved the student Arthur Antez everyone did faculty students me too Costa Rican he'd lived in the United States since he was one spoke flawless English he was as American as any of us really probably more so he hated4o be called by his Spanish name Arturo still his origins in a foreign land were emphasized enough to make the rest of us believe his piousness was truer than ours I went to Shine Hall that Thursday mostly because I had no one to talk to I didn't say a word but I did feel better just being around the ten or twelve others that showed up listening to their problems several said seminary work was much harder than they expected it would be one man Gerard pale with greasy red hair I recognized him from my Church History class confessed that it was hard keeping his focus with his mother very sick back at home she kept calling to say how proud of him she was and in the next breath she'd say she was dying of loneliness I went up to him after class a few days later and told hint I was praying for him and his mother it's not that unusual a thing to say at a seminary he thanked me by the second meeting I was ready to talk the Circle had shrunk to six or seven Arthur called the meeting to order with an opening prayer a few people spoke then it was my turn I raised my hand Arthur said this isn't class just speak so I did I started with a forthright confession that I am a homosexual Chester reached and put his hand on her forearm, his way of asking her to please calm down. She put her hand on top of his and gripped his bony knuckles 1 doubt she can say you never suspected "I know, hun," she said. "But when I think about the money." Seminary cost nothing, but his first year Phil "borrowed" $2000 from them her to adjust to living on his own. They she objected at first but that was just reflex; deep down there was a knowledge of Phil as oblivious and vulnerable, a blind child who was not yet old enough to know it. "We would have done just as well, Chester, if you'd taken it all up to the Pit and thrown it all in." Phil's father ran the town incinerator until his retirement the year before, the same year Phil was ordained. Since then his lungs, always a problem, rapidly began to break down. He could wheeze out sentences between infusions from an oxygen tube stuck up his nostrils, but usually he chose not to. "We were so proud," said Mother, speaking to some invisible person between her husband and her son. Then she looked Phil straight in the face for the last time and said, "I'll never forgive you." I've never confessed this to anyone beforehut I've decided to now because 27


Berkeley Fiction Review since coming here the struggle with my feelings has become a daily torture it's not that I'm afraid I'll act on my feelings I know the Church position on that I just worry about the presence of the feelings inside me I wonder why God has chosen to torture me this way what did I ever do I'm sorry I didn't intend to sound like that I was conscious of hush falling over the group as I was speaking the meeting broke up quickly no one came up to me no one looked at me finally in the corridor Arthur Antez pulled me aside God he was handsome square face black eyes very thick very black hair I was hopeful he'd have something helpful to say what you had to say was very interesting Phil I just want you to know that if you ever stand in my way in the future I won't hesitate to use that information against you they're like that aspiring or not Father Binney excepted he would never try to make God an accomplice in his crimes as if that were possible I lived in fear of Arthur Antez and everyone else for almost a whole year I was too scared to find out if the seminary could do anything to me I avoided everybody when I didn't have to be at classes or the library I stayed in my room I ate all my meals there instead of going to the cafeteria hello will you accept the charges hhhhhyes I will what's the matter . I think I mean I'm having problems here Mother I'm in trouble what kind of trouble I cant believe you're flunking anything I'm not it's just I mean nobody here talks to me that's the trouble that's all Philip that doesn't matter you're not there to talk to people you're there to learn how to be a priest if other people are snobby and all that just ignore them it doesn't interfere with you one bit shortly after that Arthur Antez graduated and went away forever and that helped too (they had a big party for him in the chapel basement he was assigned to an important parish on the lake in Chicago I didn't go to the party but that day I ran into him on the stairwell to the library good luck Arthur I said I extended my hand God bless you I said) by the second year everybody seemed to have forgotten about it Phil did not know how to tell them her the rest: that, just as they were she was shutting him out, he needed to move back in with them her he had no choice. He had very little money saved and no friends he could stay with. Divining that essence, Mother stiffened in her chair 28

Fellow Feeling and looked straight down. She threw her scissors down, got up from the table, and left the room. Phil sat alone. His father was across the room in the rolling recliner in which it was easiest for him to breathe. Phil could hear his straining lungs. "I'm sorry, Dad," he said. "I just didn't belong in the order like I thought I did." Phil's father reached up and slipped the Y-shaped tube from his nose. His head rolled back a little and he shut his eyes. Phil got up and knelt next to him; he'd worked with emphysema patients before and knew they did this when they wanted to speak. His father was slowly drawing air through his clogged passages, building up energy. "Your room," he said finally, faintly, "Mother uses it for her sewing now." "Oh." He paused. "I could sleep on the couch." "No," his father said. "Sleep in your room." He couldn't go on. He slipped the tube in again. He seemed to fall asleep immediately after that. Phil at once felt a swelling of cruelty toward the old man he never spoke even when he had the chance and wanted to hurt him in some way. Phil went upstairs to find Mother moving her sewing things out of hiaold room. She would not accept any help from him, she would not even talk to him. She wheeled her old Singer out by herself. She collected under one arm the three or four half-done macrames that were laying around. The only thing she left behind was a calendar with the dates her sewing circle met checked off. It hung on the wall like a memorial plaque to the sewing room that was. Phil did not dare move it. On his third day home, he was gazing through the window in his room, which overlooked the driveway, when he saw Mother pull up with several bags of groceries. He decided he would go down and help her carry them in. She was just coming in through the back door as he arrived in the kitchen. She looked at him as if startled, then turned away. Phil suddenly felt very heavy, and he did not get the rest of the groceries like he planned. Instead he stood there and watched her as she went out and came back with two more bags, placing them on the counter with the others. At the top of one of the bags was the receipt, a curling white slip with purple print. She picked it up, scrutinized it, then filed it carefully away with some other papers in a drawer in the counter. Phil nearly jumped when she broke the silence. "Your father and 29


Berkeley Fiction Review since coming here the struggle with my feelings has become a daily torture it's not that I'm afraid I'll act on my feelings I know the Church position on that I just worry about the presence of the feelings inside me I wonder why God has chosen to torture me this way what did I ever do I'm sorry I didn't intend to sound like that I was conscious of hush falling over the group as I was speaking the meeting broke up quickly no one came up to me no one looked at me finally in the corridor Arthur Antez pulled me aside God he was handsome square face black eyes very thick very black hair I was hopeful he'd have something helpful to say what you had to say was very interesting Phil I just want you to know that if you ever stand in my way in the future I won't hesitate to use that information against you they're like that aspiring or not Father Binney excepted he would never try to make God an accomplice in his crimes as if that were possible I lived in fear of Arthur Antez and everyone else for almost a whole year I was too scared to find out if the seminary could do anything to me I avoided everybody when I didn't have to be at classes or the library I stayed in my room I ate all my meals there instead of going to the cafeteria hello will you accept the charges hhhhhyes I will what's the matter . I think I mean I'm having problems here Mother I'm in trouble what kind of trouble I cant believe you're flunking anything I'm not it's just I mean nobody here talks to me that's the trouble that's all Philip that doesn't matter you're not there to talk to people you're there to learn how to be a priest if other people are snobby and all that just ignore them it doesn't interfere with you one bit shortly after that Arthur Antez graduated and went away forever and that helped too (they had a big party for him in the chapel basement he was assigned to an important parish on the lake in Chicago I didn't go to the party but that day I ran into him on the stairwell to the library good luck Arthur I said I extended my hand God bless you I said) by the second year everybody seemed to have forgotten about it Phil did not know how to tell them her the rest: that, just as they were she was shutting him out, he needed to move back in with them her he had no choice. He had very little money saved and no friends he could stay with. Divining that essence, Mother stiffened in her chair 28

Fellow Feeling and looked straight down. She threw her scissors down, got up from the table, and left the room. Phil sat alone. His father was across the room in the rolling recliner in which it was easiest for him to breathe. Phil could hear his straining lungs. "I'm sorry, Dad," he said. "I just didn't belong in the order like I thought I did." Phil's father reached up and slipped the Y-shaped tube from his nose. His head rolled back a little and he shut his eyes. Phil got up and knelt next to him; he'd worked with emphysema patients before and knew they did this when they wanted to speak. His father was slowly drawing air through his clogged passages, building up energy. "Your room," he said finally, faintly, "Mother uses it for her sewing now." "Oh." He paused. "I could sleep on the couch." "No," his father said. "Sleep in your room." He couldn't go on. He slipped the tube in again. He seemed to fall asleep immediately after that. Phil at once felt a swelling of cruelty toward the old man he never spoke even when he had the chance and wanted to hurt him in some way. Phil went upstairs to find Mother moving her sewing things out of hiaold room. She would not accept any help from him, she would not even talk to him. She wheeled her old Singer out by herself. She collected under one arm the three or four half-done macrames that were laying around. The only thing she left behind was a calendar with the dates her sewing circle met checked off. It hung on the wall like a memorial plaque to the sewing room that was. Phil did not dare move it. On his third day home, he was gazing through the window in his room, which overlooked the driveway, when he saw Mother pull up with several bags of groceries. He decided he would go down and help her carry them in. She was just coming in through the back door as he arrived in the kitchen. She looked at him as if startled, then turned away. Phil suddenly felt very heavy, and he did not get the rest of the groceries like he planned. Instead he stood there and watched her as she went out and came back with two more bags, placing them on the counter with the others. At the top of one of the bags was the receipt, a curling white slip with purple print. She picked it up, scrutinized it, then filed it carefully away with some other papers in a drawer in the counter. Phil nearly jumped when she broke the silence. "Your father and 29


Berkeley Fiction Review I can't support you indefinitely. We're old." She started to put away her purchases. "I plan to get a job," Phil was prompted to say. She finished with the groceries and left the room without another word. As it turned out, every two or three days, she would break her silence in that same, unexpected, tersely precise way. It was as if she couldn't help but speak, and she always seemed peeved with herself afterward. The second time, she said, "Electricity costs money" (there happened to be two lights on in the room) and the time after that, "You should pay room and board here. It's only right." Her words were pointed and aimed precisely at Phil's heart. Once he was there long enough to detect Mother's pattern, he abandoned his policy of looking out for opportunities to be kind to her and began avoiding her whenever he could. He stayed in his room and did not keep it up. The little he ate, he ate up there, leaving food-encrusted plates and bowls on the floor and half-filled glasses and cups along the windowsill. Tipped-over stacks of books and papers made any movement a precarious undertaking. He came to feel as though he was at the seminary again. He spoke to no one. No one knocked on his door and wanted to come in, nor did he think he could let anyone in if they did. And there was the same searing loneliness that afflicted him at all times, even when he was sleeping. He honestly tried to take the steps that would lead to his getting a job. Every day he'd start off hopeful. Every day he took the morning paper up to his room and spread it out on a cleared-away space on the bed. But when he got to the want ads, a strange and irresistible tiredness would come over him and he'd have to put the paper aside and take a nap the truth is I've never paid rent before that was always taken care of when I quit as a priest I thought vaguely that I'd find other work but I had no idea how hard it would be and my clothes everything down to the dull black shoes were provided by the Church and the shirts and pants sent for Christmases and birthdays filled the gaps but now a small hole is forming in the crotch of my pants I did go to one interview a sheet music company over in Troyaka I took the bus they were looking for an orderpicker to work in their warehouse I told myself it was important I told myself I wanted the job I believed it too sort of right up until I got to the place then I suddenly felt very listless by the time I sat in the straightback hardwood chair by Mr Gilwicki's desk I felt as though I'd 30

Fellow Feeling burned up every last ounce of myself I had one leg locked over one knee to hide the hole all I put down under work experience was ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST that doesn't seem like much Mr Gilwicki said looking the application over you left it blank here under Wage Earned I hadn't seen that column I apologized and told him how much I made is that all priests earn he flipped the application over and wrote some comments that I could see but couldn't make out two minutes later we were on our feet and shaking hands he told me honestly I don't think this is the right job for you I'd been in a stupor since I walked into the place and failed to respond to even that as I was leaving I heard him say if you don't mind my asking why did you leave the priesthood a good question but I walked out as if I never heard it outside in the cold sunshine I seemed to recover my capacity for thinking I immediately recalled Father Binney God rest his soul I remembered how when I was an altar boy at St Francis ofAssisi Father Binney used to see to every aspect of the parish from the well-being of the parishioners to the sturdiness of the pews he was so involved with everything that I asked him once what the main job of a priest was he said being a priest requires attending a lot of things more earthly than spiritual I'm telling you this because I see in you that you'll probably enter into this vocation someday unless something drastic happens if you do you should keep in mind that above everything else the main job of a priest is the salvation of souls and so I always believed totally unaware until right then that the market value ofsoulsaving was a lot lower than that offishing out copies of the marching band version of the lemon tree song in some filthy basement I could never go to another interview several times I've left the house intending to go to one but I never quite made it then I started leaving the house with the intention of making Mother believe I was going to an interview whenever he did that he was sure Mother was on to him. Through some glance or gesture, she seemed to say, "We both know you're a liar. Go already." On the morning of the thirtieth day back in his old room, Phil awoke to realize that the entire time he had not even thought of going 31


Berkeley Fiction Review I can't support you indefinitely. We're old." She started to put away her purchases. "I plan to get a job," Phil was prompted to say. She finished with the groceries and left the room without another word. As it turned out, every two or three days, she would break her silence in that same, unexpected, tersely precise way. It was as if she couldn't help but speak, and she always seemed peeved with herself afterward. The second time, she said, "Electricity costs money" (there happened to be two lights on in the room) and the time after that, "You should pay room and board here. It's only right." Her words were pointed and aimed precisely at Phil's heart. Once he was there long enough to detect Mother's pattern, he abandoned his policy of looking out for opportunities to be kind to her and began avoiding her whenever he could. He stayed in his room and did not keep it up. The little he ate, he ate up there, leaving food-encrusted plates and bowls on the floor and half-filled glasses and cups along the windowsill. Tipped-over stacks of books and papers made any movement a precarious undertaking. He came to feel as though he was at the seminary again. He spoke to no one. No one knocked on his door and wanted to come in, nor did he think he could let anyone in if they did. And there was the same searing loneliness that afflicted him at all times, even when he was sleeping. He honestly tried to take the steps that would lead to his getting a job. Every day he'd start off hopeful. Every day he took the morning paper up to his room and spread it out on a cleared-away space on the bed. But when he got to the want ads, a strange and irresistible tiredness would come over him and he'd have to put the paper aside and take a nap the truth is I've never paid rent before that was always taken care of when I quit as a priest I thought vaguely that I'd find other work but I had no idea how hard it would be and my clothes everything down to the dull black shoes were provided by the Church and the shirts and pants sent for Christmases and birthdays filled the gaps but now a small hole is forming in the crotch of my pants I did go to one interview a sheet music company over in Troyaka I took the bus they were looking for an orderpicker to work in their warehouse I told myself it was important I told myself I wanted the job I believed it too sort of right up until I got to the place then I suddenly felt very listless by the time I sat in the straightback hardwood chair by Mr Gilwicki's desk I felt as though I'd 30

Fellow Feeling burned up every last ounce of myself I had one leg locked over one knee to hide the hole all I put down under work experience was ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST that doesn't seem like much Mr Gilwicki said looking the application over you left it blank here under Wage Earned I hadn't seen that column I apologized and told him how much I made is that all priests earn he flipped the application over and wrote some comments that I could see but couldn't make out two minutes later we were on our feet and shaking hands he told me honestly I don't think this is the right job for you I'd been in a stupor since I walked into the place and failed to respond to even that as I was leaving I heard him say if you don't mind my asking why did you leave the priesthood a good question but I walked out as if I never heard it outside in the cold sunshine I seemed to recover my capacity for thinking I immediately recalled Father Binney God rest his soul I remembered how when I was an altar boy at St Francis ofAssisi Father Binney used to see to every aspect of the parish from the well-being of the parishioners to the sturdiness of the pews he was so involved with everything that I asked him once what the main job of a priest was he said being a priest requires attending a lot of things more earthly than spiritual I'm telling you this because I see in you that you'll probably enter into this vocation someday unless something drastic happens if you do you should keep in mind that above everything else the main job of a priest is the salvation of souls and so I always believed totally unaware until right then that the market value ofsoulsaving was a lot lower than that offishing out copies of the marching band version of the lemon tree song in some filthy basement I could never go to another interview several times I've left the house intending to go to one but I never quite made it then I started leaving the house with the intention of making Mother believe I was going to an interview whenever he did that he was sure Mother was on to him. Through some glance or gesture, she seemed to say, "We both know you're a liar. Go already." On the morning of the thirtieth day back in his old room, Phil awoke to realize that the entire time he had not even thought of going 31


Berkeley Fiction Review to Mass once. He wondered if perhaps Mother was right. Maybe he really had abandoned his faith. So he cleared a spot amid the mess on the floor, got on his knees and prayed to God to help him. Afterward, he felt better. He had not abandoned God. He did not feel so alone.

2. But the feeling fluctuated. As the weeks went by, Phil would repeatedly flash on the idea that he needed more than God—he needed people—and was ashamed that God wasn't.enough for him. As much as he had come to despise the Church, he did miss a little his particular parish, Sacred Heart, in a small town in the remote north of the state. True, the pastor there, Father Connell, had a reeking disposition. And the parishioners acknowledged tepidly, if at all, the new assistant priest, a sad-looking and uncertain young man with mediumbrown hair parted jaggedly on the left side there was one man gentle friendly devout name of Broom first name Marty the father of seven children before he was forty all of whom unfortunately for them took after their untrusting pignosed mother rather than him amiable handsome father Marty the volunteer around the parish carried the collection baskets shoveled our walkway Marty the snowman gave up an entire Sunday night at home with his seething pignosed family to fix the rectory furnace I spent the time with him in the basement watching him working bringing him hot tea he was a printer who ran a failing business not learned but had the sadness of the genuinely devout we became friends or at least friendly he was working I noticed a tattoo of a woman lower right arm kept it covered up in church he saw me looking a little embarrassed it's a stupid thing he told me I was a kid in the Army I was just doing what everybody else was doing and not thinking too much thoughtless grunt handsome humanity sprawled out on the basement floor legs open in front of me our furnace had to be attacked from underneath I liked the tattoo and I told him not to be embarrassed we had a secret laugh over Father Connell totally inappropriate Marty reliever of solitude now all I do is read He had several Bibles in his room and would often switch from 32

Fellow Feeling one to another in mid-passage. The Church had always insisted on the King James Version, but on his own Phil gravitated toward the Revised Standard, which was less mystical while retaining the spiritual power. 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; He read other books. With pocket change, he bought used theology books in laughably good shape. For a quarter and a nickel he got one about the Hinayana Buddhists and read how their attainment of God came essentially through isolation. That was something he could never do. The loneliness would kill him. It was killing him now each meaningless if not impossible without the other I put the host on Marty's thick smooth pink tongue and watched it disappear One afternoon, Phil put down his book and stood up. He felt if he didn't talk to someone, or at least see a sympathetic face, he would burst. He pulled on his sneakers and grabbed his deep blue parka. He listened at the door for any indications of Mother and, hearing none, quickly made his way downstairs and out the back door. He took Mandemer Street, which wound clandestinely behind the house into a thicket of overhanging trees, and opened up into a wide flat thoroughfare on which much of the town's business was transacted. But it was a cold Sunday afternoon and no one was around, although he saw people up and down Mandemer Street through windows and tinted windshields. He walked fast, hands thrust into the pockets of his parka, his upper body bent forward, as if headed somewhere important. He talked to himself. He passed a bus stop just as a bus arrived, and hopped on. He did not know where the bus was going, but it was heated. He paid no heed to what he stared at out the window, but instead looked for his own expression in the warped thickness of the windowpane. He was able to catch his eyes once, and saw in them Mother's eyes. He sat back, recalling her latest near-telegraphic communication delivered just that morning and already I've almost forgotten about it "Your father talked to some people down at the incinerator. They can get you work. Be there tomorrow at nine." J hate the incinerator I've always hated it even vgs a child the constant hot roar the large cement pit the foul-smelling choking fumes the people of the town backing their station wagons up to the treacherous edge and throwing their garbage in the loud cliquish workers stupidly pretending the white masks they breathe through are 33


Berkeley Fiction Review to Mass once. He wondered if perhaps Mother was right. Maybe he really had abandoned his faith. So he cleared a spot amid the mess on the floor, got on his knees and prayed to God to help him. Afterward, he felt better. He had not abandoned God. He did not feel so alone.

2. But the feeling fluctuated. As the weeks went by, Phil would repeatedly flash on the idea that he needed more than God—he needed people—and was ashamed that God wasn't.enough for him. As much as he had come to despise the Church, he did miss a little his particular parish, Sacred Heart, in a small town in the remote north of the state. True, the pastor there, Father Connell, had a reeking disposition. And the parishioners acknowledged tepidly, if at all, the new assistant priest, a sad-looking and uncertain young man with mediumbrown hair parted jaggedly on the left side there was one man gentle friendly devout name of Broom first name Marty the father of seven children before he was forty all of whom unfortunately for them took after their untrusting pignosed mother rather than him amiable handsome father Marty the volunteer around the parish carried the collection baskets shoveled our walkway Marty the snowman gave up an entire Sunday night at home with his seething pignosed family to fix the rectory furnace I spent the time with him in the basement watching him working bringing him hot tea he was a printer who ran a failing business not learned but had the sadness of the genuinely devout we became friends or at least friendly he was working I noticed a tattoo of a woman lower right arm kept it covered up in church he saw me looking a little embarrassed it's a stupid thing he told me I was a kid in the Army I was just doing what everybody else was doing and not thinking too much thoughtless grunt handsome humanity sprawled out on the basement floor legs open in front of me our furnace had to be attacked from underneath I liked the tattoo and I told him not to be embarrassed we had a secret laugh over Father Connell totally inappropriate Marty reliever of solitude now all I do is read He had several Bibles in his room and would often switch from 32

Fellow Feeling one to another in mid-passage. The Church had always insisted on the King James Version, but on his own Phil gravitated toward the Revised Standard, which was less mystical while retaining the spiritual power. 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; He read other books. With pocket change, he bought used theology books in laughably good shape. For a quarter and a nickel he got one about the Hinayana Buddhists and read how their attainment of God came essentially through isolation. That was something he could never do. The loneliness would kill him. It was killing him now each meaningless if not impossible without the other I put the host on Marty's thick smooth pink tongue and watched it disappear One afternoon, Phil put down his book and stood up. He felt if he didn't talk to someone, or at least see a sympathetic face, he would burst. He pulled on his sneakers and grabbed his deep blue parka. He listened at the door for any indications of Mother and, hearing none, quickly made his way downstairs and out the back door. He took Mandemer Street, which wound clandestinely behind the house into a thicket of overhanging trees, and opened up into a wide flat thoroughfare on which much of the town's business was transacted. But it was a cold Sunday afternoon and no one was around, although he saw people up and down Mandemer Street through windows and tinted windshields. He walked fast, hands thrust into the pockets of his parka, his upper body bent forward, as if headed somewhere important. He talked to himself. He passed a bus stop just as a bus arrived, and hopped on. He did not know where the bus was going, but it was heated. He paid no heed to what he stared at out the window, but instead looked for his own expression in the warped thickness of the windowpane. He was able to catch his eyes once, and saw in them Mother's eyes. He sat back, recalling her latest near-telegraphic communication delivered just that morning and already I've almost forgotten about it "Your father talked to some people down at the incinerator. They can get you work. Be there tomorrow at nine." J hate the incinerator I've always hated it even vgs a child the constant hot roar the large cement pit the foul-smelling choking fumes the people of the town backing their station wagons up to the treacherous edge and throwing their garbage in the loud cliquish workers stupidly pretending the white masks they breathe through are 33


Berkeley Fiction Review protecting them but I'll go if she wants me to I'll go the Pit tomorrow and throw myself in Mother would hear about it if he didn't. He became aware of a voice calling to him. It was the bus driver. This was his last stop. Phil apologized and hurried off. It was only when the bus pulled away that he realized he didn't know where he was. Night was falling. The air was colder. He zipped up his parka and rushed to the nearest corner. He saw with a flush of panic that he was no longer on Mandemer Street—judging by the odd colors of the street signs, he didn't think he was even in the same town anymore. Around him he saw large, well-groomed houses with attached garages. Behind him was a meticulously trimmed wall of vegetation that towered over passersby. He heard voices. He suspected hoodlums at first, but then he listened carefully and heard gentle, reassuring voices. They came from behind the wall of vegetation. Phil quickly followed the perimeter of the wall, in search of an opening. He turned two corners until at last the bushes gave way to an open gate. He peered in. It was a church. The voices he heard were of the pastor, fully dressed in a white surplice and a tippet of navy blue, and the worshippers he was welcoming to the five o'clock service. Phil didn't know this church or this priest, but he felt humiliated to ask for help from either. He made his way up the paved walkway. He learned from the sign that this was not a Catholic church, but an Episcopal one, and he felt a little better. But the priest, a tall white-haired man with a puffy face, had apparently welcomed the last of the worshippers and now headed into the church himself, shutting the door behind him without ever looking Phil's way. Phil dashed ahead, caught the handle, and pulled at the heavy, intricately carved wood. He made it inside just in time to call the old priest back before he disappeared irretrievably into the nave. The old priest turned, regarding the entirety of Phil's six-foot being. Phil was panting and sweating despite the cold. His clothes were shabby and smelly. "Yes?" the priest said. One white tweezed eyebrow was arched. But Phil was looking past the priest now, into the most magnife*cent church he'd ever seen—something worlds removed from old Sacred Heart, which was tiny and had, especially in winter, the dim, dank atmosphere of a basement. This church was lighted exultantly, 34

Fellow Feeling so that not a shadow was cast in any direction. On each side wall there were, six enormous stained-glass windows that together depicted the Twelve Stations of the Cross. He looked across the nave. On each side, a massive pillar made of a cream-colored stone rose from amidst the pews to the vaulted ceiling. Directly ahead, the sanctuary in the distance loomed. Raised several feet from the pews, it almost seemed to float above them. It contained an enormous altar of white marble and, hanging on the wall behind, a vast painted-wood carving of a Christ nailed to the cross that overlooked the proceedings not with an expression of suffering, but understanding. The flames at the ends of the towering altar candles stood as solid slivers of light—there was no draft in here to blow them around—and they were reflected everywhere, in gold linings and casements and fringes. "I have to begin," he heard the priest say, adopting the gentle tone that had apparently served him so well. "Please," he took Phil by the arm to the backmost pew, "have a seat." Phil knelt, crossed himself, and sat down. Even the pew, a shiny shellacked wood, appeared to him exceptionally beautiful, It was not scratched up by keys like the pews at old Sacred Heart—why they did that, he never understood. The service began, but not in the way Phil expected, with the priest and the altar boys emerging from the sacristy. Instead, a single, loud organ note sounded, and soon the air was thick with other organ notes, then joined by an upswelling of voices in unison, a choir. Phil looked up and behind him, following the sounds. He saw the choir, . men on one side, women on the other, all dressed in white robes and holding hymnals. Behind them was an organ with enormous rising golden pipes, played by someone Phil couldn't see. The music they made was so beautiful that Phil wept. The service was almost exactly like the Mass that he was so intimately familiar with, except for the intervals of choir music, which were not the norm in the churches he had grown up and served in. He went through the service, doing and saying everything as it should have been done and said, taking comfort in it. All the while he managed to talk privately to God as well, asking him to relieve his loneliness, feeling perhaps that God had answered him already in bringing him to this magnificent church. He listened when it came time for the homily. The white-haired priest talked about charity, the importance of giving freely to others, a 35


Berkeley Fiction Review protecting them but I'll go if she wants me to I'll go the Pit tomorrow and throw myself in Mother would hear about it if he didn't. He became aware of a voice calling to him. It was the bus driver. This was his last stop. Phil apologized and hurried off. It was only when the bus pulled away that he realized he didn't know where he was. Night was falling. The air was colder. He zipped up his parka and rushed to the nearest corner. He saw with a flush of panic that he was no longer on Mandemer Street—judging by the odd colors of the street signs, he didn't think he was even in the same town anymore. Around him he saw large, well-groomed houses with attached garages. Behind him was a meticulously trimmed wall of vegetation that towered over passersby. He heard voices. He suspected hoodlums at first, but then he listened carefully and heard gentle, reassuring voices. They came from behind the wall of vegetation. Phil quickly followed the perimeter of the wall, in search of an opening. He turned two corners until at last the bushes gave way to an open gate. He peered in. It was a church. The voices he heard were of the pastor, fully dressed in a white surplice and a tippet of navy blue, and the worshippers he was welcoming to the five o'clock service. Phil didn't know this church or this priest, but he felt humiliated to ask for help from either. He made his way up the paved walkway. He learned from the sign that this was not a Catholic church, but an Episcopal one, and he felt a little better. But the priest, a tall white-haired man with a puffy face, had apparently welcomed the last of the worshippers and now headed into the church himself, shutting the door behind him without ever looking Phil's way. Phil dashed ahead, caught the handle, and pulled at the heavy, intricately carved wood. He made it inside just in time to call the old priest back before he disappeared irretrievably into the nave. The old priest turned, regarding the entirety of Phil's six-foot being. Phil was panting and sweating despite the cold. His clothes were shabby and smelly. "Yes?" the priest said. One white tweezed eyebrow was arched. But Phil was looking past the priest now, into the most magnife*cent church he'd ever seen—something worlds removed from old Sacred Heart, which was tiny and had, especially in winter, the dim, dank atmosphere of a basement. This church was lighted exultantly, 34

Fellow Feeling so that not a shadow was cast in any direction. On each side wall there were, six enormous stained-glass windows that together depicted the Twelve Stations of the Cross. He looked across the nave. On each side, a massive pillar made of a cream-colored stone rose from amidst the pews to the vaulted ceiling. Directly ahead, the sanctuary in the distance loomed. Raised several feet from the pews, it almost seemed to float above them. It contained an enormous altar of white marble and, hanging on the wall behind, a vast painted-wood carving of a Christ nailed to the cross that overlooked the proceedings not with an expression of suffering, but understanding. The flames at the ends of the towering altar candles stood as solid slivers of light—there was no draft in here to blow them around—and they were reflected everywhere, in gold linings and casements and fringes. "I have to begin," he heard the priest say, adopting the gentle tone that had apparently served him so well. "Please," he took Phil by the arm to the backmost pew, "have a seat." Phil knelt, crossed himself, and sat down. Even the pew, a shiny shellacked wood, appeared to him exceptionally beautiful, It was not scratched up by keys like the pews at old Sacred Heart—why they did that, he never understood. The service began, but not in the way Phil expected, with the priest and the altar boys emerging from the sacristy. Instead, a single, loud organ note sounded, and soon the air was thick with other organ notes, then joined by an upswelling of voices in unison, a choir. Phil looked up and behind him, following the sounds. He saw the choir, . men on one side, women on the other, all dressed in white robes and holding hymnals. Behind them was an organ with enormous rising golden pipes, played by someone Phil couldn't see. The music they made was so beautiful that Phil wept. The service was almost exactly like the Mass that he was so intimately familiar with, except for the intervals of choir music, which were not the norm in the churches he had grown up and served in. He went through the service, doing and saying everything as it should have been done and said, taking comfort in it. All the while he managed to talk privately to God as well, asking him to relieve his loneliness, feeling perhaps that God had answered him already in bringing him to this magnificent church. He listened when it came time for the homily. The white-haired priest talked about charity, the importance of giving freely to others, a 35


Berkeley Fiction Review common theme for priests as Christmas approached. He invoked in part the famous Chapter Thirteen of Paul'sfirstletter to the Corinthians. 13 And now abideth, faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. Then he moved away from the microphone and engaged in a minor fit of coughing. The altar boy, who from Phil's distance reminded him of himself, poured a glass of water from a pitcher that was already there. The old priest recovered himself quickly and returned to the microphone. "Sorry 'bout that," he chuckled, feeling his neck beneath his Adam's apple. "That reminds me —throat-blessings are coming up!" The congregants burst into laughter. Even Phil smiled. The old priest continued with a cunning grin: "But as I was saying, seriously," and he went on about how charity included being charitable to one's church, their beloved Holy Trinity. He said they've been trying to raise funds to complete repairs on the back fence after it was knocked down by last month's "unfortunate accident." They all seemed to know what that was. "As it is now," he said, "the fence provides easy access to anyone who wants to come in, including prowlers and other miscreants." He directed the parishioners' attention to the small envelopes that had been placed at the end of each pew. "Whatever extra you can give at collection time would be greatly appreciated in the eyes of God." Then came time for Holy Communion. Phil watched carefully as the old priest carried out the preparatory duties. He spread his hands over the bread and wine. The choir sang. He lifted the shining chalice above his head. He closed his eyes and moved his lips in silent prayer. It reminded Phil of the ostentatious way Father Connell would say the Secret, an inaudible prayer. It was a time when a priest could say anything he wanted to. I have grievously sinned in thought word and deed through my fault through my fault through my own great fault I can never tell you how though already I'm a lawbreaker a killer an innocent killer yet I want love Phil did not refrain from taking the sacrament because of the way he was dressed, although he did notice how well-attired most of the other worshippers were, in suits with ties, in dresses. As he was in the last pew, he was at the end of the line to receive the Eucharist. The white-haired priest seemed dismayed when he saw him, but he smiled and placed the host on his tongue. At the end of the service, Phil bowed his head to pray again as the 36

Fellow Feeling others filed past him. The old priest was the first to go by, frowning on his way outside to bid the worshippers goodbye. Next came the congregants, silent except for a cough or the call of a child. Some took notice of him as he sat contentedly in his pew. Some did not look at all. He was just standing when the, pastor returned, rubbing his arms against the cold. They eyed each other at the same time. The priest smiled his gentle smile. "The service is over now," he said. "Thank you for coming." "It was lovely. And what a beautiful church." They fell silent. Phil did not move. The priest noticed he'd been crying. He said, "Is it that you don't have a place to go?" The members of the choir, dressed now in lay clothes, were noisily making their way down the middle aisle. They stopped to receive the praises of the priest, tactfully avoiding Phil's eyes. Phil, having figured out who they were from the conversation, suddenly came alive. "You're all wonderful singers!" he said. "Thank you all so much!" They returned his thanks and he shook two or three hands, much to the old priest's annoyance. As they were leaving another person came in, a man with a long, asymmetrical face, a bit distorted-looking as if immense heat were rising in front of it. He could have been a few years younger than Phil, and wore a soft-looking brown beard. He apparently came to talk to the priest, but seeing him engaged, stayed back. Phil watched the man as he occupied himself with viewing the stainedglass windows. The priest again turned to Phil, and waited a moment to see if Phil would leave. "My friend," the old priest said, "I'm going to call the city. They have agencies, places where you can stay." Phil turned to him. "You won't let me stay here?" he said. "Not even a little while longer?" "It's not safe." "I'll be all right." The old priest held his tongue. He had a countenance for every occasion, and now adopted a stern-but-concerned one. Under this new, harder gaze, the last traces of Phil's tears evaporated from his face. "What, exactly, is the matter with you?" The slight smile Phil had been wearing since he entered the church died. He was suddenly overcome with desire to leave, to run out of 37


Berkeley Fiction Review common theme for priests as Christmas approached. He invoked in part the famous Chapter Thirteen of Paul'sfirstletter to the Corinthians. 13 And now abideth, faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. Then he moved away from the microphone and engaged in a minor fit of coughing. The altar boy, who from Phil's distance reminded him of himself, poured a glass of water from a pitcher that was already there. The old priest recovered himself quickly and returned to the microphone. "Sorry 'bout that," he chuckled, feeling his neck beneath his Adam's apple. "That reminds me —throat-blessings are coming up!" The congregants burst into laughter. Even Phil smiled. The old priest continued with a cunning grin: "But as I was saying, seriously," and he went on about how charity included being charitable to one's church, their beloved Holy Trinity. He said they've been trying to raise funds to complete repairs on the back fence after it was knocked down by last month's "unfortunate accident." They all seemed to know what that was. "As it is now," he said, "the fence provides easy access to anyone who wants to come in, including prowlers and other miscreants." He directed the parishioners' attention to the small envelopes that had been placed at the end of each pew. "Whatever extra you can give at collection time would be greatly appreciated in the eyes of God." Then came time for Holy Communion. Phil watched carefully as the old priest carried out the preparatory duties. He spread his hands over the bread and wine. The choir sang. He lifted the shining chalice above his head. He closed his eyes and moved his lips in silent prayer. It reminded Phil of the ostentatious way Father Connell would say the Secret, an inaudible prayer. It was a time when a priest could say anything he wanted to. I have grievously sinned in thought word and deed through my fault through my fault through my own great fault I can never tell you how though already I'm a lawbreaker a killer an innocent killer yet I want love Phil did not refrain from taking the sacrament because of the way he was dressed, although he did notice how well-attired most of the other worshippers were, in suits with ties, in dresses. As he was in the last pew, he was at the end of the line to receive the Eucharist. The white-haired priest seemed dismayed when he saw him, but he smiled and placed the host on his tongue. At the end of the service, Phil bowed his head to pray again as the 36

Fellow Feeling others filed past him. The old priest was the first to go by, frowning on his way outside to bid the worshippers goodbye. Next came the congregants, silent except for a cough or the call of a child. Some took notice of him as he sat contentedly in his pew. Some did not look at all. He was just standing when the, pastor returned, rubbing his arms against the cold. They eyed each other at the same time. The priest smiled his gentle smile. "The service is over now," he said. "Thank you for coming." "It was lovely. And what a beautiful church." They fell silent. Phil did not move. The priest noticed he'd been crying. He said, "Is it that you don't have a place to go?" The members of the choir, dressed now in lay clothes, were noisily making their way down the middle aisle. They stopped to receive the praises of the priest, tactfully avoiding Phil's eyes. Phil, having figured out who they were from the conversation, suddenly came alive. "You're all wonderful singers!" he said. "Thank you all so much!" They returned his thanks and he shook two or three hands, much to the old priest's annoyance. As they were leaving another person came in, a man with a long, asymmetrical face, a bit distorted-looking as if immense heat were rising in front of it. He could have been a few years younger than Phil, and wore a soft-looking brown beard. He apparently came to talk to the priest, but seeing him engaged, stayed back. Phil watched the man as he occupied himself with viewing the stainedglass windows. The priest again turned to Phil, and waited a moment to see if Phil would leave. "My friend," the old priest said, "I'm going to call the city. They have agencies, places where you can stay." Phil turned to him. "You won't let me stay here?" he said. "Not even a little while longer?" "It's not safe." "I'll be all right." The old priest held his tongue. He had a countenance for every occasion, and now adopted a stern-but-concerned one. Under this new, harder gaze, the last traces of Phil's tears evaporated from his face. "What, exactly, is the matter with you?" The slight smile Phil had been wearing since he entered the church died. He was suddenly overcome with desire to leave, to run out of 37


Berkeley Fiction Review there, yet he continued to linger. He said, "How long have you been pastor here?" The old priest lowered his eyelids. "Thirty-one years." "Were you assigned to this church right out of seminary?" "I was hired by this parish, right out of seminary. But the service is over now. Everyone's left and you have to go too. I'm going to call the city— "When you say you're going to call the city, do you really mean the police?" Now the expression was anger. His delicate eyebrows merged. The excess skin above his lip pushed together in a pleated fashion. "I'll call the police," he said, "if that's what it takes!" He moved off. "Mercy triumphs over judgment, Father," Phil called out. The priest paused and turned around again. The soft-bearded man was also looking now. Both Phil and the old priest seemed conscious of the man's presence, though neither acknowledged him. The priest took a few steps toward Phil again, extending his nose like a sniffing dog. "Remember the letter of James," Phil instructed in a gentler voice, a voice he used when admonishing parishioners while trying not to alienate them. It was a way of speaking he learned initially from old Father Binney. "You're a priest? Why then would you behave this way in a church? Why would you come in here in the state you're in?" The old man spoke slowly, the words smoldering in his mouth awhile before he verbalized them. "You're a disgrace to the vocation." "I'm not in the vocation anymore"— he was going to say "Father" but didn't. "Why not?-Never mind, it doesn't surprise me. I can see how unsuited to it you are. What parish would hire you?" "I was assigned to a church, up in St.Cloud. Sacred Heart." "You're a Roman Catholic?" "I was." "Have you converted?" Phil looked down at the red-carpeted aisle. "I thought I might for awhile there. But now, thanks to you, I doubt it very much." He moved to go, nearly pushing the old man aside. He halted, turned. "And by the way, you completely misinterpreted the passage you read. By 'charity,' Paul was referring to love, the love we have for other human be38

Fellow Feeling ings, and that God has for us is it wrong to talk so angrily of love he didn't mean it in the self-serving material sense that you just reduced it to." The old man now looked frightened, but Phil couldn't help himself. "And the way you softened them up for it with that comedy routine! Doesn't preaching mean anything more to you than tawdry showmanship?" With that the old man made a wheezing sound and proceeded to hurry toward the sacristy. Phil did not like the image of himself as a bully. He turned and left the church. He hustled up the paved walkway and out into the street, kicking something ahead of him with the tip of his sneaker. He^ looked down: it was a jagged rock. He toyed with the idea of picking it up and throwing it through one of the glorious stained-glass windows. It pleased him that he was still young enough to entertain such a thought but in truth I've never been so young as to actually do something like that I was too busy indulging my sentiment for symbol and pageantry a boy an altar boy a seminarian a priest and again this afternoon indulgent idolatrous fetishist you remember how I washed by hand the white lace of my vestment I promise to hold the world I see in greater disregard he tripped on the curb. He still had no idea where he was going. There was no light left in the sky, and the air was colder still. He passed from streets to roads and was frightened by the far-off sound of a barking dog what if the old man probably over his shock by now called the police anyway no one's more spiteful than a decrepit clergyman must be something a person can do the wind gusted. The parka Mother had given him was not enough for cold this severe. He' felt as though his face was cracking and "falling away piece by piece. Ahead he saw a couple in a compact car parked at the side of the street. The car's interior light was on. The man and woman had their gloves off, turning their hands over the vent in the blue plastic dashboard. Phil broke into a run. Then suddenly the interior light flashed off, the taillights blazed red and the car abruptly sped away. He stood and watched until it disappeared around a corner. He knew it would be better to keep moving, but he didn't know which way to go. Then the knocking of boots made him aware that he was not alone—and that whoever was behind him was gaining fast. He bolted ahead, refusing to look back. But when the stalker was so close that his breathing could be heard, Phil turned his head. It was the young man with the long face and the soft beard he had seen in the church. 39


Berkeley Fiction Review there, yet he continued to linger. He said, "How long have you been pastor here?" The old priest lowered his eyelids. "Thirty-one years." "Were you assigned to this church right out of seminary?" "I was hired by this parish, right out of seminary. But the service is over now. Everyone's left and you have to go too. I'm going to call the city— "When you say you're going to call the city, do you really mean the police?" Now the expression was anger. His delicate eyebrows merged. The excess skin above his lip pushed together in a pleated fashion. "I'll call the police," he said, "if that's what it takes!" He moved off. "Mercy triumphs over judgment, Father," Phil called out. The priest paused and turned around again. The soft-bearded man was also looking now. Both Phil and the old priest seemed conscious of the man's presence, though neither acknowledged him. The priest took a few steps toward Phil again, extending his nose like a sniffing dog. "Remember the letter of James," Phil instructed in a gentler voice, a voice he used when admonishing parishioners while trying not to alienate them. It was a way of speaking he learned initially from old Father Binney. "You're a priest? Why then would you behave this way in a church? Why would you come in here in the state you're in?" The old man spoke slowly, the words smoldering in his mouth awhile before he verbalized them. "You're a disgrace to the vocation." "I'm not in the vocation anymore"— he was going to say "Father" but didn't. "Why not?-Never mind, it doesn't surprise me. I can see how unsuited to it you are. What parish would hire you?" "I was assigned to a church, up in St.Cloud. Sacred Heart." "You're a Roman Catholic?" "I was." "Have you converted?" Phil looked down at the red-carpeted aisle. "I thought I might for awhile there. But now, thanks to you, I doubt it very much." He moved to go, nearly pushing the old man aside. He halted, turned. "And by the way, you completely misinterpreted the passage you read. By 'charity,' Paul was referring to love, the love we have for other human be38

Fellow Feeling ings, and that God has for us is it wrong to talk so angrily of love he didn't mean it in the self-serving material sense that you just reduced it to." The old man now looked frightened, but Phil couldn't help himself. "And the way you softened them up for it with that comedy routine! Doesn't preaching mean anything more to you than tawdry showmanship?" With that the old man made a wheezing sound and proceeded to hurry toward the sacristy. Phil did not like the image of himself as a bully. He turned and left the church. He hustled up the paved walkway and out into the street, kicking something ahead of him with the tip of his sneaker. He^ looked down: it was a jagged rock. He toyed with the idea of picking it up and throwing it through one of the glorious stained-glass windows. It pleased him that he was still young enough to entertain such a thought but in truth I've never been so young as to actually do something like that I was too busy indulging my sentiment for symbol and pageantry a boy an altar boy a seminarian a priest and again this afternoon indulgent idolatrous fetishist you remember how I washed by hand the white lace of my vestment I promise to hold the world I see in greater disregard he tripped on the curb. He still had no idea where he was going. There was no light left in the sky, and the air was colder still. He passed from streets to roads and was frightened by the far-off sound of a barking dog what if the old man probably over his shock by now called the police anyway no one's more spiteful than a decrepit clergyman must be something a person can do the wind gusted. The parka Mother had given him was not enough for cold this severe. He' felt as though his face was cracking and "falling away piece by piece. Ahead he saw a couple in a compact car parked at the side of the street. The car's interior light was on. The man and woman had their gloves off, turning their hands over the vent in the blue plastic dashboard. Phil broke into a run. Then suddenly the interior light flashed off, the taillights blazed red and the car abruptly sped away. He stood and watched until it disappeared around a corner. He knew it would be better to keep moving, but he didn't know which way to go. Then the knocking of boots made him aware that he was not alone—and that whoever was behind him was gaining fast. He bolted ahead, refusing to look back. But when the stalker was so close that his breathing could be heard, Phil turned his head. It was the young man with the long face and the soft beard he had seen in the church. 39


Berkeley Fiction Review "Wait up!" he called. "Why are you following me?" hissed Phil. "Take it easy!" He added, "That doesn't sound like love for a fellow human being." help me please he slowed, letting the man catch up. "I'm sorry. "I'm glad I caught you. Do you realize how fast you walk? I wanted to talk to you about what you said back there in the church, about Paul's meaning of charity. I think you're right. The old goat should have known that. Even I know that, and I haven't read the Bible since parochial school." "I think he did know it I went too far treated him much too harshly there were times when the parish was in need that Father Connell did exactly the same thing Father Binney too besides," he said, "charity in the sense that he meant it is important too. It's good to give freely." "Maybe so," said the bearded man, "but I know the old guy pretty well and it doesn't surprise me at all to hear his sermons are soft, although the people who go there seem to love him." his eyes are bright you don't go there?" He shook his head. "I did some carpentry for them. They had a stockade fence that ran along the back of the church until some drunk driver knocked it down last month. The old guy's been putting me off. So I finally told him I wouldn't finish the job until he paid me what I was owed. That's why I was there." "Did you get your money?" "After he settled down, I did. At first he was too upset to talk. He locked himself in his little room back there. I pounded on the door a couple times, then he came running out and said we should get our business over with. He paid me everything he owed and rushed me out. He was embarrassed that I heard what you said. What were you doing there, anyway? I know you don't go there." "How dp you know that?" "The way you're dressed, for one thing. That's important to them. And the way you were laying into the old guy, you didn't sound like one of his adoring flock." / was lost I don't know what I was doing there. I never should have gone in how much did he hear how much does he know they walked slowly and silently awhile, and Phil did not mind the company. The wind had died down and the cold was less painful. The bearded man said, 40

Fellow Feeling "That is a beautiful passage though, if I'm remembering right, 4 Love is patient; that one from Corinthians. love is kind; I have to admit it, love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude as much as I can't stand Paul." 8 Love never ends. Phil glanced up quickly. "Why can't you stand Paul?" he said. Up until then, the bearded man had been easy and forthcoming look now how he's a little uncomfortable keeps his eyes on the street won't answer I doubt there's a gay man alive who knows Scripture who doesn't have mixed feelings about Paul 27 and in the same way also the men, a scrawl slid under my door a day after my confession giving up natural intercourse with women, having memorized its contents forever were consumed with passion for one another. I Men took committed it shameless acts outside with and men burned and it received in in the their weedy own lot person behind due penalty the for seminary their chapel error. They came to the corner and the bearded man said, "Stop a minute." He appeared to be mustering his courage. "I live nearby here. I was just wondering.. .maybe you'd like to come home with me?" . I do I want to I'm in trouble I'm lost I'm cold Dad's dying and I'll end up the same if I go to the Pit tomorrow tomorrow I'll throw myself in the long-faced, soft-bearded carpenter looked away I want to go with him even more when I see that forlorn look that reveals such sensitivity a stranger is pursuing me yes," he heard himself say. "Let's hurry." The man gave his name, Bernard. It was too cold for them to take out their hands and shake. They walked a block and a half and entered a building that looked run-down even in the poor street lighting. Bernard's apartment was a fifth-floor walk-up. The steps sagged to one side as they climbed them. Phil couldn't tell where the faint light was coming from —it just seemed to float about the stairway like mist. "The heat's a problem here," Bernard warned, and indeed, the apartment was not much warmer than the stairs. Phil could see all three rooms from the tiny hallway just inside the door where he stood: 41


Berkeley Fiction Review "Wait up!" he called. "Why are you following me?" hissed Phil. "Take it easy!" He added, "That doesn't sound like love for a fellow human being." help me please he slowed, letting the man catch up. "I'm sorry. "I'm glad I caught you. Do you realize how fast you walk? I wanted to talk to you about what you said back there in the church, about Paul's meaning of charity. I think you're right. The old goat should have known that. Even I know that, and I haven't read the Bible since parochial school." "I think he did know it I went too far treated him much too harshly there were times when the parish was in need that Father Connell did exactly the same thing Father Binney too besides," he said, "charity in the sense that he meant it is important too. It's good to give freely." "Maybe so," said the bearded man, "but I know the old guy pretty well and it doesn't surprise me at all to hear his sermons are soft, although the people who go there seem to love him." his eyes are bright you don't go there?" He shook his head. "I did some carpentry for them. They had a stockade fence that ran along the back of the church until some drunk driver knocked it down last month. The old guy's been putting me off. So I finally told him I wouldn't finish the job until he paid me what I was owed. That's why I was there." "Did you get your money?" "After he settled down, I did. At first he was too upset to talk. He locked himself in his little room back there. I pounded on the door a couple times, then he came running out and said we should get our business over with. He paid me everything he owed and rushed me out. He was embarrassed that I heard what you said. What were you doing there, anyway? I know you don't go there." "How dp you know that?" "The way you're dressed, for one thing. That's important to them. And the way you were laying into the old guy, you didn't sound like one of his adoring flock." / was lost I don't know what I was doing there. I never should have gone in how much did he hear how much does he know they walked slowly and silently awhile, and Phil did not mind the company. The wind had died down and the cold was less painful. The bearded man said, 40

Fellow Feeling "That is a beautiful passage though, if I'm remembering right, 4 Love is patient; that one from Corinthians. love is kind; I have to admit it, love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude as much as I can't stand Paul." 8 Love never ends. Phil glanced up quickly. "Why can't you stand Paul?" he said. Up until then, the bearded man had been easy and forthcoming look now how he's a little uncomfortable keeps his eyes on the street won't answer I doubt there's a gay man alive who knows Scripture who doesn't have mixed feelings about Paul 27 and in the same way also the men, a scrawl slid under my door a day after my confession giving up natural intercourse with women, having memorized its contents forever were consumed with passion for one another. I Men took committed it shameless acts outside with and men burned and it received in in the their weedy own lot person behind due penalty the for seminary their chapel error. They came to the corner and the bearded man said, "Stop a minute." He appeared to be mustering his courage. "I live nearby here. I was just wondering.. .maybe you'd like to come home with me?" . I do I want to I'm in trouble I'm lost I'm cold Dad's dying and I'll end up the same if I go to the Pit tomorrow tomorrow I'll throw myself in the long-faced, soft-bearded carpenter looked away I want to go with him even more when I see that forlorn look that reveals such sensitivity a stranger is pursuing me yes," he heard himself say. "Let's hurry." The man gave his name, Bernard. It was too cold for them to take out their hands and shake. They walked a block and a half and entered a building that looked run-down even in the poor street lighting. Bernard's apartment was a fifth-floor walk-up. The steps sagged to one side as they climbed them. Phil couldn't tell where the faint light was coming from —it just seemed to float about the stairway like mist. "The heat's a problem here," Bernard warned, and indeed, the apartment was not much warmer than the stairs. Phil could see all three rooms from the tiny hallway just inside the door where he stood: 41


Berkeley Fiction Review a bedroom to the left, a small kitchen to the right, and directly ahead a room with no recognizable purpose aside from housing stacks of unpacked cardboard boxes and books. The floor was strewn with newspapers and rags that had what looked like white plaster all over them. Several green trash bags were stuffed and tied and heaped against the far wall. It was close to squalid I wish I had a place like this myself Bernard said, "This way," and they moved into the bedroom. He shut the door behind them and turned on the three space heaters that were set up around the bed. They lit up gradually, humming, casting the room in a toasty orange glow. Bernard undressed; Phil followed suit. Bernard climbed into bed but Phil remained where he was, standing naked in the warming air. Even at thirty-one, Phil was fairly innocent sexually. His life in the service of God had afforded him a few opportunities, but he was mostly too scared to take them. Since then, Phil hadn't exactly intended to be chaste, but chastity by this time had become a habit. So he was a passive creature in sex, following the lead of the other, taking Bernard's hand when it was extended. He was almost like a clay figure being molded, the way Bernard was pushing and steering the direction of his body on the bed, a pleasing breathless blend of gentle instruction and passionate insistence. He was in the hands of someone who knew the uses of the hands, what rough and subtle pressures they could apply, when they should lift breathing or hold down shuddering or clamp shut. Phil abandoned himself. sleeping

3. In the middle of the night, Phil sat up in a panic. "What's wrong?" said Bernard. He had been awake. Nothing was familiar. "My mother...I mean, I have an appointment tomorrow, this morning..." He rubbed his eyes to hide his embarrassment here I am after all a man with a few white hairs on my chest already the mirror leaning against the bedroom wall shows me still worried about "You're a strange one, Phil," Bernard said. "You're so bright, so handsome handsome he said you obviously believe in God. But you seem so nervous. What's wrong?" 42

Fellow Feeling Phil turned away, a little hurt. "You're funny, too." He looked around at the books that were stacked against the wall and tumbling from beneath the bed. "I never met a carpenter who read so much." "I'm not a carpenter. That's just what I do for money. Come with me. I'll show you what I really do." Bernard leapt out of bed. Phil followed. The cold air rushed to surround them and they clung to one another, naked, scampering across the littered floor, into the darkness of the apartment. Phil stepped on something slippery and nearly went down, but Bernard's strong hands kept him up. He was led to a room in the back that he had not seen when he first came in: "This is not the light they should be seen in," Bernard explained. "Daylight is ideal." He snapped a switch and a series of large overhanging lamps flickered to life. The room was much larger than the others. One wall was lined with large curtainless windows that showed the sky. Against the other three walls were what Phil figured to be abstract sculptures, some as small as a hand, one or two as large as a refrigerator. Most of them were covered with plaster and seemed to sweep upward, resembling frozen white fire. "It's not plaster," the sculptor explained. "It's a more moldable mixture I make myself. It doesn't dry as fast and it gives me the bulk and texture I need-Please don't touch!" "I'm sorry. They're beautiful. Have you ever made any money from them?" Phil regretted the question as soon as he said it. The sculptor shivered and Phil embraced him. "Not so far," Bernard said, "but I'm hopeful." Together they noticed the dawn arching overhead. Then Bernard led Phil back to bed. "So what do you do, handsome?" how much does he know how much did he hear nothing. I had a job, but I quit. The appointment I have this morning at nine is an interview. It'll be my last interview ever." "You sound confident." He paused. "Why did you quit the priesthood?" Bernard said. / just told you why "So you do know. You did hear." "You seem so unhappy. Do you regret leaving?" "No. I regret it for others, maybe, but not for myself. I do miss it at times, but only because it's the only life I've ever known." "Why would you leave the only life you've ever known?" 43


Berkeley Fiction Review a bedroom to the left, a small kitchen to the right, and directly ahead a room with no recognizable purpose aside from housing stacks of unpacked cardboard boxes and books. The floor was strewn with newspapers and rags that had what looked like white plaster all over them. Several green trash bags were stuffed and tied and heaped against the far wall. It was close to squalid I wish I had a place like this myself Bernard said, "This way," and they moved into the bedroom. He shut the door behind them and turned on the three space heaters that were set up around the bed. They lit up gradually, humming, casting the room in a toasty orange glow. Bernard undressed; Phil followed suit. Bernard climbed into bed but Phil remained where he was, standing naked in the warming air. Even at thirty-one, Phil was fairly innocent sexually. His life in the service of God had afforded him a few opportunities, but he was mostly too scared to take them. Since then, Phil hadn't exactly intended to be chaste, but chastity by this time had become a habit. So he was a passive creature in sex, following the lead of the other, taking Bernard's hand when it was extended. He was almost like a clay figure being molded, the way Bernard was pushing and steering the direction of his body on the bed, a pleasing breathless blend of gentle instruction and passionate insistence. He was in the hands of someone who knew the uses of the hands, what rough and subtle pressures they could apply, when they should lift breathing or hold down shuddering or clamp shut. Phil abandoned himself. sleeping

3. In the middle of the night, Phil sat up in a panic. "What's wrong?" said Bernard. He had been awake. Nothing was familiar. "My mother...I mean, I have an appointment tomorrow, this morning..." He rubbed his eyes to hide his embarrassment here I am after all a man with a few white hairs on my chest already the mirror leaning against the bedroom wall shows me still worried about "You're a strange one, Phil," Bernard said. "You're so bright, so handsome handsome he said you obviously believe in God. But you seem so nervous. What's wrong?" 42

Fellow Feeling Phil turned away, a little hurt. "You're funny, too." He looked around at the books that were stacked against the wall and tumbling from beneath the bed. "I never met a carpenter who read so much." "I'm not a carpenter. That's just what I do for money. Come with me. I'll show you what I really do." Bernard leapt out of bed. Phil followed. The cold air rushed to surround them and they clung to one another, naked, scampering across the littered floor, into the darkness of the apartment. Phil stepped on something slippery and nearly went down, but Bernard's strong hands kept him up. He was led to a room in the back that he had not seen when he first came in: "This is not the light they should be seen in," Bernard explained. "Daylight is ideal." He snapped a switch and a series of large overhanging lamps flickered to life. The room was much larger than the others. One wall was lined with large curtainless windows that showed the sky. Against the other three walls were what Phil figured to be abstract sculptures, some as small as a hand, one or two as large as a refrigerator. Most of them were covered with plaster and seemed to sweep upward, resembling frozen white fire. "It's not plaster," the sculptor explained. "It's a more moldable mixture I make myself. It doesn't dry as fast and it gives me the bulk and texture I need-Please don't touch!" "I'm sorry. They're beautiful. Have you ever made any money from them?" Phil regretted the question as soon as he said it. The sculptor shivered and Phil embraced him. "Not so far," Bernard said, "but I'm hopeful." Together they noticed the dawn arching overhead. Then Bernard led Phil back to bed. "So what do you do, handsome?" how much does he know how much did he hear nothing. I had a job, but I quit. The appointment I have this morning at nine is an interview. It'll be my last interview ever." "You sound confident." He paused. "Why did you quit the priesthood?" Bernard said. / just told you why "So you do know. You did hear." "You seem so unhappy. Do you regret leaving?" "No. I regret it for others, maybe, but not for myself. I do miss it at times, but only because it's the only life I've ever known." "Why would you leave the only life you've ever known?" 43


Berkeley Fiction Review Phil took a long breath, the way his father did when he wanted to speak. He proceeded to tell Bernard everything, about Arthur Antez, . about the passage from Romans slipped under his door, about how they made him a priest only with reservations and how they exiled him to St. Cloud with the ornery Father Connell. "I still don't get it," Bernard said I just told you they didn't stop you from doing your job as a priest, did they? They didn't interfere with that, did they?" Phil trembled in the cold. Bernard held him tighter. "Don't you miss your parishioners?" "No, I don't it's not because I think I'm better than they are it's because I think I'm worse except for one Mart)1 Broom him I miss you wouldn't think a man like that had sins to confess "I wouldn't think a man like you would." confession purges you're absolutely right "I was hearing confessions. Many' came in there are some things that cannot be said there were these screens that were supposed to keep penitents anonymous, but I could always tell who it was. I hated that." I'd never heard a confession from Marty some vows must be broken I could see through the screen that he was disturbed his flinching face he told me he was attracted to men he'd always been attracted to men ever since he could remember he always tried to ignore how he felt but lately the feelings were growing in him every day since Yd come to town he broke down in tears this big handsome burly man this father of seven married twenty-two years "Tears are fine," Bernard said. "Go ahead." "He said he never told anyone before. I was the first one he told it seemed like I should have said something then but I didn't I sort of froze it was the last thing I was expecting he said he knew the feelings were wrong. He begged me for forgiveness, as if he'd ever done anything at all to me but he wasn't talking to me I realized he was talking to every priest he'd ever known. He was talking to the Church. He was talking to God even. It was a very uncomfortable position to be in God's position I mean I knew I couldn't tell him what God thought so I told him what every priest he'd ever known thought, what the Church thought. I told him to be a man and to fight vigilantly against the feelings that he knew were wrong I knew even as I was saying it Marty had confessed my sins not his and I panicked a little I got paranoid somehow I thought 44

Fellow Feeling he was really talking about me he knew something when he saw my coldness, he composed himself and apologized. I said there was no need to apologize to me and I gave him his penance a harsh one and he left. At mass that afternoon, I noticed he didn't help with the collection, and afterward he didn't hang around. I tried to catch him even though I knew I had done what I should have as a priest I wanted to show him some of the friendliness that had seemed so natural between us I cojifessed even during the Secret to a fantasy I had about taking him back to the Rectory and making love to him "Fantasies are nothing to confess," said Bernard. "But he brushed me off avoided looking at me he said his family was getting ready for a trip to his wife's parents up in Canada and they wanted to make it before nightfall. Apparently, though, it was only his wife and kids that went, because he gassed himself to death the next day in his sealed-off garage. Carbon monoxide poisoning. His kids found him when they came back that night. One of them broke loose from his mother and ran screaming it down the street. 'Our Daddy's dead! Our Daddy's dead!'" Phil nestled his face into the space between Bernard's arm and chest. He pushed his face into the wetness there. "I'm afraid," he said brokenly, "that sometime soon I'll have to join him." "Quiet," Bernard said. He slid down and put both arms around him, letting Phil rest his head on his chest. In a short time they were both asleep. quiet you quiet They awoke several hours later, exactly at the same time. The small digital clock across the room flashed 9:01, 9:02. They remained still and silent a minute, watching their breath dissipate in the frigid air. Then, without saying a word, Bernard got up, put on his robe, and went into his studio. Phil stayed in the bed, edging into the warm impression his lover had left him.

45


Berkeley Fiction Review Phil took a long breath, the way his father did when he wanted to speak. He proceeded to tell Bernard everything, about Arthur Antez, . about the passage from Romans slipped under his door, about how they made him a priest only with reservations and how they exiled him to St. Cloud with the ornery Father Connell. "I still don't get it," Bernard said I just told you they didn't stop you from doing your job as a priest, did they? They didn't interfere with that, did they?" Phil trembled in the cold. Bernard held him tighter. "Don't you miss your parishioners?" "No, I don't it's not because I think I'm better than they are it's because I think I'm worse except for one Mart)1 Broom him I miss you wouldn't think a man like that had sins to confess "I wouldn't think a man like you would." confession purges you're absolutely right "I was hearing confessions. Many' came in there are some things that cannot be said there were these screens that were supposed to keep penitents anonymous, but I could always tell who it was. I hated that." I'd never heard a confession from Marty some vows must be broken I could see through the screen that he was disturbed his flinching face he told me he was attracted to men he'd always been attracted to men ever since he could remember he always tried to ignore how he felt but lately the feelings were growing in him every day since Yd come to town he broke down in tears this big handsome burly man this father of seven married twenty-two years "Tears are fine," Bernard said. "Go ahead." "He said he never told anyone before. I was the first one he told it seemed like I should have said something then but I didn't I sort of froze it was the last thing I was expecting he said he knew the feelings were wrong. He begged me for forgiveness, as if he'd ever done anything at all to me but he wasn't talking to me I realized he was talking to every priest he'd ever known. He was talking to the Church. He was talking to God even. It was a very uncomfortable position to be in God's position I mean I knew I couldn't tell him what God thought so I told him what every priest he'd ever known thought, what the Church thought. I told him to be a man and to fight vigilantly against the feelings that he knew were wrong I knew even as I was saying it Marty had confessed my sins not his and I panicked a little I got paranoid somehow I thought 44

Fellow Feeling he was really talking about me he knew something when he saw my coldness, he composed himself and apologized. I said there was no need to apologize to me and I gave him his penance a harsh one and he left. At mass that afternoon, I noticed he didn't help with the collection, and afterward he didn't hang around. I tried to catch him even though I knew I had done what I should have as a priest I wanted to show him some of the friendliness that had seemed so natural between us I cojifessed even during the Secret to a fantasy I had about taking him back to the Rectory and making love to him "Fantasies are nothing to confess," said Bernard. "But he brushed me off avoided looking at me he said his family was getting ready for a trip to his wife's parents up in Canada and they wanted to make it before nightfall. Apparently, though, it was only his wife and kids that went, because he gassed himself to death the next day in his sealed-off garage. Carbon monoxide poisoning. His kids found him when they came back that night. One of them broke loose from his mother and ran screaming it down the street. 'Our Daddy's dead! Our Daddy's dead!'" Phil nestled his face into the space between Bernard's arm and chest. He pushed his face into the wetness there. "I'm afraid," he said brokenly, "that sometime soon I'll have to join him." "Quiet," Bernard said. He slid down and put both arms around him, letting Phil rest his head on his chest. In a short time they were both asleep. quiet you quiet They awoke several hours later, exactly at the same time. The small digital clock across the room flashed 9:01, 9:02. They remained still and silent a minute, watching their breath dissipate in the frigid air. Then, without saying a word, Bernard got up, put on his robe, and went into his studio. Phil stayed in the bed, edging into the warm impression his lover had left him.

45


to contend with spirits

Third Place Winner Sudden Fiction

t o

c o n t e n d

Contest

w i t h

spirits

Linda Walters-Page

M

y mother never told me she could fly. She selfishly kept it to herself even when I had dreams night after night filled with the whisper of soft movements across my brow. I would go down to breakfast and tell her of my night visions of snowy feathers falling from the ceiling, one or two at first, then waves of them, sticking to my lips and filling my ears. She would laugh and say, "What funny ideas you have," and tell me to eat my oatmeal. She never shared her secret experience with me, and I knew she loved flying. I saw how she felt. I was playing in the attic in a small, dusty hiding place behind the steamer trunks and the folded day bed, away from the noise and interference of younger brothers and sisters. I didn't hear her come in, but I soon heard her breathing, shallow breaths taken in quickly and let out with soft moans. I looked at her through a gap between the trunks and the smelly cushion of the bed. She had crossed her arms over her chest, hands reaching to stroke her shoulders and caress her upper back. Then she opened the attic window and leaned out over the roof, the morning sun making her smooth skin golden. Eyes closed, lips parted, she turned her face into the wind. She began to sway slightly, and I heard the soft, rustling sound of my 46

dreams. Her hand came up and unfastened the top button of her cardigan, and I heard the rustling again and sprang out shouting, "No, mother, no." She immediately straightened up and turned her face to me. "Matty. You startled me." Her voice was hoarse with surprise and disappointment. "I thought you went next door to play." I went to her and clasped her around the waist. "What were you doing, mother?" I asked, looking up at her face. "I was watching a hawk that settled in a tree across the field." Her hands were firm and strong as she removed my arms from around her waist and turned me towards the door. "Let's go make some cocoa." No, she never shared her joy and pleasure with me. So I carried my jealousy through the years hugging it against me as tightly as she curled her wings against her back. One night when I was fourteen she went out into the moonlit fields after the rest of the family was asleep. I followed and watched her from behind a bale as she stood with her back to me. The smell of the freshly mown hay was sickeningly sweet. As she loosened the ribbons of her nightgown and let it fall to her feet, I was running. When she unfurled her huge, beautiful wings that sighed as the feathers fanned out and settled, I thrust the three-pronged hay rake through her left wing. She gave a long wailing cry, hot breath visible, and swung to face me, feathers brushing my arm, blood, dark in the moonlight, spattering my face. She dropped to her knees, wings and arms outstretched—supplicant—and I stabbed her twice in the other wing. She fell on her back, silent now, eyes wide to the moonlight, and I jabbed the rake up and down until her wings were a mass of matted mud and gore. Finally, I let the rake drop and threw back my head to draw in a shuddering breath—a breath that caught in my throat as I watched an arrow of black wings cross the face of the moon.

47


to contend with spirits

Third Place Winner Sudden Fiction

t o

c o n t e n d

Contest

w i t h

spirits

Linda Walters-Page

M

y mother never told me she could fly. She selfishly kept it to herself even when I had dreams night after night filled with the whisper of soft movements across my brow. I would go down to breakfast and tell her of my night visions of snowy feathers falling from the ceiling, one or two at first, then waves of them, sticking to my lips and filling my ears. She would laugh and say, "What funny ideas you have," and tell me to eat my oatmeal. She never shared her secret experience with me, and I knew she loved flying. I saw how she felt. I was playing in the attic in a small, dusty hiding place behind the steamer trunks and the folded day bed, away from the noise and interference of younger brothers and sisters. I didn't hear her come in, but I soon heard her breathing, shallow breaths taken in quickly and let out with soft moans. I looked at her through a gap between the trunks and the smelly cushion of the bed. She had crossed her arms over her chest, hands reaching to stroke her shoulders and caress her upper back. Then she opened the attic window and leaned out over the roof, the morning sun making her smooth skin golden. Eyes closed, lips parted, she turned her face into the wind. She began to sway slightly, and I heard the soft, rustling sound of my 46

dreams. Her hand came up and unfastened the top button of her cardigan, and I heard the rustling again and sprang out shouting, "No, mother, no." She immediately straightened up and turned her face to me. "Matty. You startled me." Her voice was hoarse with surprise and disappointment. "I thought you went next door to play." I went to her and clasped her around the waist. "What were you doing, mother?" I asked, looking up at her face. "I was watching a hawk that settled in a tree across the field." Her hands were firm and strong as she removed my arms from around her waist and turned me towards the door. "Let's go make some cocoa." No, she never shared her joy and pleasure with me. So I carried my jealousy through the years hugging it against me as tightly as she curled her wings against her back. One night when I was fourteen she went out into the moonlit fields after the rest of the family was asleep. I followed and watched her from behind a bale as she stood with her back to me. The smell of the freshly mown hay was sickeningly sweet. As she loosened the ribbons of her nightgown and let it fall to her feet, I was running. When she unfurled her huge, beautiful wings that sighed as the feathers fanned out and settled, I thrust the three-pronged hay rake through her left wing. She gave a long wailing cry, hot breath visible, and swung to face me, feathers brushing my arm, blood, dark in the moonlight, spattering my face. She dropped to her knees, wings and arms outstretched—supplicant—and I stabbed her twice in the other wing. She fell on her back, silent now, eyes wide to the moonlight, and I jabbed the rake up and down until her wings were a mass of matted mud and gore. Finally, I let the rake drop and threw back my head to draw in a shuddering breath—a breath that caught in my throat as I watched an arrow of black wings cross the face of the moon.

47


Still

S t i l l

Vicky Anderson

I

am not easily moved by natural beauty, so to come to this cabin was an odd decision—one I made quickly—though I've done nothing quickly until now. I am a woman who, when faced with a menu of more than a page, needs thirty minutes to make a selection. If for example, "Drunken Chicken with Pine Nuts and Chipoltes" appears as the special, I must first imagine the raw ingredients carefully laid out on a scarred wooden cutting board—the chicken breast pulled from its marinade (tequila?) — then pounded with a mallet until it is flattened and waffled; next garlic, onion, chipoltes, pine nuts all sauteed in olive oil, those then put aside, the chicken cooked just minutes on each side, and, finally, with a tilt of the pan, its sensuous slide onto a white Buffalo china plate. Ray, the husband I have left to come here, learned early in our relationship to order an appetizer or devour a warm basket of bread while awaiting my decision. But in spite of the slow dance that precedes everything I do, I took this cabin quickly—within a couple of hours of finding the ad which appeared on a table in Nirvana, the coffee house where no one I know, and no one my age, goes. I drove to Nirvana every morning after the hour I spent in a dazed walking tour through the rooms in my house. During those early morning rounds, I was incapable of even bending to retrieve a discarded tee shirt and did little more than look, with 48

detachment, at the vaguely familiar objects on each dusty surface. The ad, ripped carefully out of a newspaper by the previous occupant of my booth, had absorbed the ring of moisture left by a water glass, leaving an arc of blurred letters. But the number was visible, as was most of the message: "Cabin in the aspens, beautiful Hart Prairie Homestead." I called from the pay phone next to the ladies room (labeled "Sopranos," for in its previous incarnation, Nirvana had been the "Verdi and Puccini Opera Cafe"), and when I got no answer I ordered more coffee and a bagel, then after the third try, coffee and a scone. On the fifth try, when I realized I was able to swallow real food for the first time since Panama's death, a male voice answered, and before he finished his hello, I'd said, "I'll take the cabin." Before that morning, I had no plans to go anywhere. I had no plans to leave Ray, the man I love, and no plans to increase his pain, or to alleviate my own. I had no sense that my days would vary from what they had become—heavy-footed with dull pain, when what I wanted was a sharper one—a shooting pain that would make me collapse to my knees and roar. I was greedy for more than the now familiar shifting ache whose location I could never quite pinpoint, whose presence reminded me that nothing would be the same again. When I told Ray I was going, he shook his head and left the room. Later when I had the ticket and had taken my luggage from the hall closet, he said, "Jesus Christ, Mara, next you'll be taking instructions from fortune cookies." "I'm sorry, Ray," is all I managed, though looking at him I felt nothing, not regret nor desire nor even recognition. I had not touched him in weeks and knew if I did I would take on his sorrow, his disappointment, and all that I carried with me would double in weight. The room in our house for the baby, who we jokingly called "Panama Jack" though we knew he'd end up with a biblical name like Jacob or Joshua, had wide pine planks for flooring. For that reason, it was the best room in the house. From the ceiling, I had hung Japanese lanterns in rows only inches apart. Ray thought they looked magical. The crib, bleached oak, was finely crafted and I placed it on a rag rug, right in the middle of the room. I wanted Panama to see everything at once. On the two walls with no views of the outside, I painted murals of rich, tangled jungle growth and brightly colored birds. On the south 49


Still

S t i l l

Vicky Anderson

I

am not easily moved by natural beauty, so to come to this cabin was an odd decision—one I made quickly—though I've done nothing quickly until now. I am a woman who, when faced with a menu of more than a page, needs thirty minutes to make a selection. If for example, "Drunken Chicken with Pine Nuts and Chipoltes" appears as the special, I must first imagine the raw ingredients carefully laid out on a scarred wooden cutting board—the chicken breast pulled from its marinade (tequila?) — then pounded with a mallet until it is flattened and waffled; next garlic, onion, chipoltes, pine nuts all sauteed in olive oil, those then put aside, the chicken cooked just minutes on each side, and, finally, with a tilt of the pan, its sensuous slide onto a white Buffalo china plate. Ray, the husband I have left to come here, learned early in our relationship to order an appetizer or devour a warm basket of bread while awaiting my decision. But in spite of the slow dance that precedes everything I do, I took this cabin quickly—within a couple of hours of finding the ad which appeared on a table in Nirvana, the coffee house where no one I know, and no one my age, goes. I drove to Nirvana every morning after the hour I spent in a dazed walking tour through the rooms in my house. During those early morning rounds, I was incapable of even bending to retrieve a discarded tee shirt and did little more than look, with 48

detachment, at the vaguely familiar objects on each dusty surface. The ad, ripped carefully out of a newspaper by the previous occupant of my booth, had absorbed the ring of moisture left by a water glass, leaving an arc of blurred letters. But the number was visible, as was most of the message: "Cabin in the aspens, beautiful Hart Prairie Homestead." I called from the pay phone next to the ladies room (labeled "Sopranos," for in its previous incarnation, Nirvana had been the "Verdi and Puccini Opera Cafe"), and when I got no answer I ordered more coffee and a bagel, then after the third try, coffee and a scone. On the fifth try, when I realized I was able to swallow real food for the first time since Panama's death, a male voice answered, and before he finished his hello, I'd said, "I'll take the cabin." Before that morning, I had no plans to go anywhere. I had no plans to leave Ray, the man I love, and no plans to increase his pain, or to alleviate my own. I had no sense that my days would vary from what they had become—heavy-footed with dull pain, when what I wanted was a sharper one—a shooting pain that would make me collapse to my knees and roar. I was greedy for more than the now familiar shifting ache whose location I could never quite pinpoint, whose presence reminded me that nothing would be the same again. When I told Ray I was going, he shook his head and left the room. Later when I had the ticket and had taken my luggage from the hall closet, he said, "Jesus Christ, Mara, next you'll be taking instructions from fortune cookies." "I'm sorry, Ray," is all I managed, though looking at him I felt nothing, not regret nor desire nor even recognition. I had not touched him in weeks and knew if I did I would take on his sorrow, his disappointment, and all that I carried with me would double in weight. The room in our house for the baby, who we jokingly called "Panama Jack" though we knew he'd end up with a biblical name like Jacob or Joshua, had wide pine planks for flooring. For that reason, it was the best room in the house. From the ceiling, I had hung Japanese lanterns in rows only inches apart. Ray thought they looked magical. The crib, bleached oak, was finely crafted and I placed it on a rag rug, right in the middle of the room. I wanted Panama to see everything at once. On the two walls with no views of the outside, I painted murals of rich, tangled jungle growth and brightly colored birds. On the south 49


Still

Berkeley Fiction Review facing wall, the one with a stubborn crack in the plaster, I painted a vine trailing out and curled it around all the way to the doorway and into the hall. There were open shelves, also bleached oak, with small, neat piles of baby clothes—all pristine white. At the end of his crib was the log cabin quilt my mother had used for her largest doll. Resting on the quilt, as if in anticipation of his arrival, was the balding horsehair rabbit that had been my grandmother's as a child. When I closed the door to his room for the last time on the morning we came back from the hospital without him, I knew I had created something too perfect to ever have been occupied. In that way, I understood it was my fault. Though called Highway 826, the road to the cabin is a dirt path, booby-trapped with large tree roots and occasionally a jagged rock. The treacherous stretches disappear only to reveal a half or quarter mile of washboard that loosened the teeth in my head. Coming in that first night, I knew I was not heading into a place I could leave easily— I would be semi-imprisoned by the bad road and low clearance of my rental car. I don't know how I located the cabin; there were no welcoming lights, but somehow a structure revealed itself and I knew I'd arrived. I cut the engine, leaving the headlights on, and before I got a good look at the house, I saw the camper shell on cinderblocks—the scrap metal in various piles, the two abandoned pickup trucks, and the flowered trash can that seemed a relic from the sixties. Inside, when I located the lights, I was greeted by mouse droppings, dust, and a note from Jake, the owner, saying "Welcome." Next to the note was a card from Unity Village, Missouri with a printed "Prayer for Protection," and on the refrigerator was an old invitation to a full moon ski party. I couldn't imagine a use for either. The first book I planned to read to our son was Goodnightf Moon. I imagined me whispering (and later the two of us saying in unison), "Goodnight stairs/Goodnight air/Goodnight noises everywhere." The next was In the Night Kitchen. In the first letter I wrote to Ray, I asked him to send me both books. I especially needed the picture of Mickey tumbling naked out of the bottle of milk on the cover of In The Night Kitchen. Then I wrote:

50

To the left of the desk where I sit to draw is a window. The window looks out onto a meadow where at first light—4:30—I can see elk who make sounds like babies crying. They wake me everyday. When I first got here, I could only describe what I saw by finding a parallel from my old life (the only way it seems of use to me)—the aspen leaves, for example, looked to me like shiny coins. But now they are entirely their own. I am writing to the man who owns this cabin—there are some practical things I need to ask him. I knew from the beginning, Ray, that we had sorrow ahead of us, I just didn't know how soon it would begin. In my ninth month, when I hadn't felt Panama move for a whole day, I knew that it was over. I delayed telling Ray, to protect him, wanting to allow him the gift of a few more hours before the sorrow began. At the hospital, the doctors picked up nothing on the first heart monitor, but acted like it was a failure of equipment and brought in a bigger machine. When the bigger machine registered no heartbeat, the nurse left the room crying. I felt outside of myself, hovering above the room, wiser and more complete than all the others. I knew first; I understood the finality of it; I accepted it at once. The rest of them seemed to have difficulty comprehending. Outside our door a woman wailed. Later, I was told that her husband had carried her from the parking lot, her eleventh child's head already crowning. The doctor had delivered the baby right in the hall outside our room. From the sounds she made, you would have thought the pain came as a surprise to her—that she knew nothing of childbirth, of contractions. Her cries comforted me as though someone had given voice to my pain. She produced a nine pound baby boy. When I pick up colored pencils to draw, I find myself staring at the wall facing the desk. Carefully arranged and secured by pushpins is a collage of my landlord Jake's life. There are photographs of a girl whose hair is white blonde and who must be about ten. She is posed in front of several different landscapes, none are familiar. She must live somewhere else—with her mother? In one she is holding a snake which is wrapped twice around her small wrist. This is the only photograph 51


Still

Berkeley Fiction Review facing wall, the one with a stubborn crack in the plaster, I painted a vine trailing out and curled it around all the way to the doorway and into the hall. There were open shelves, also bleached oak, with small, neat piles of baby clothes—all pristine white. At the end of his crib was the log cabin quilt my mother had used for her largest doll. Resting on the quilt, as if in anticipation of his arrival, was the balding horsehair rabbit that had been my grandmother's as a child. When I closed the door to his room for the last time on the morning we came back from the hospital without him, I knew I had created something too perfect to ever have been occupied. In that way, I understood it was my fault. Though called Highway 826, the road to the cabin is a dirt path, booby-trapped with large tree roots and occasionally a jagged rock. The treacherous stretches disappear only to reveal a half or quarter mile of washboard that loosened the teeth in my head. Coming in that first night, I knew I was not heading into a place I could leave easily— I would be semi-imprisoned by the bad road and low clearance of my rental car. I don't know how I located the cabin; there were no welcoming lights, but somehow a structure revealed itself and I knew I'd arrived. I cut the engine, leaving the headlights on, and before I got a good look at the house, I saw the camper shell on cinderblocks—the scrap metal in various piles, the two abandoned pickup trucks, and the flowered trash can that seemed a relic from the sixties. Inside, when I located the lights, I was greeted by mouse droppings, dust, and a note from Jake, the owner, saying "Welcome." Next to the note was a card from Unity Village, Missouri with a printed "Prayer for Protection," and on the refrigerator was an old invitation to a full moon ski party. I couldn't imagine a use for either. The first book I planned to read to our son was Goodnightf Moon. I imagined me whispering (and later the two of us saying in unison), "Goodnight stairs/Goodnight air/Goodnight noises everywhere." The next was In the Night Kitchen. In the first letter I wrote to Ray, I asked him to send me both books. I especially needed the picture of Mickey tumbling naked out of the bottle of milk on the cover of In The Night Kitchen. Then I wrote:

50

To the left of the desk where I sit to draw is a window. The window looks out onto a meadow where at first light—4:30—I can see elk who make sounds like babies crying. They wake me everyday. When I first got here, I could only describe what I saw by finding a parallel from my old life (the only way it seems of use to me)—the aspen leaves, for example, looked to me like shiny coins. But now they are entirely their own. I am writing to the man who owns this cabin—there are some practical things I need to ask him. I knew from the beginning, Ray, that we had sorrow ahead of us, I just didn't know how soon it would begin. In my ninth month, when I hadn't felt Panama move for a whole day, I knew that it was over. I delayed telling Ray, to protect him, wanting to allow him the gift of a few more hours before the sorrow began. At the hospital, the doctors picked up nothing on the first heart monitor, but acted like it was a failure of equipment and brought in a bigger machine. When the bigger machine registered no heartbeat, the nurse left the room crying. I felt outside of myself, hovering above the room, wiser and more complete than all the others. I knew first; I understood the finality of it; I accepted it at once. The rest of them seemed to have difficulty comprehending. Outside our door a woman wailed. Later, I was told that her husband had carried her from the parking lot, her eleventh child's head already crowning. The doctor had delivered the baby right in the hall outside our room. From the sounds she made, you would have thought the pain came as a surprise to her—that she knew nothing of childbirth, of contractions. Her cries comforted me as though someone had given voice to my pain. She produced a nine pound baby boy. When I pick up colored pencils to draw, I find myself staring at the wall facing the desk. Carefully arranged and secured by pushpins is a collage of my landlord Jake's life. There are photographs of a girl whose hair is white blonde and who must be about ten. She is posed in front of several different landscapes, none are familiar. She must live somewhere else—with her mother? In one she is holding a snake which is wrapped twice around her small wrist. This is the only photograph 51


Berkeley Fiction Review with a caption—it simply says, "Winder." There are two Post-it notes, both faded from age, one reading, "I wish you your best," and the other saying "equi-flow." There is a paper placemat from a Chinese restaurant featuring "The Year of the Monkey." The placemat tells me that the Monkey year is ruled by the Water element which signifies advancement in human relations, commerce, travel, and in general, communications. I also learn that the natural inventiveness and improvisational qualities of the monkey will bring many new and unconventional ways of doing things. This sounds hopeful, though according to the placemat, I am merely an Ox. I have been here three weeks, and yet I've drawn only three things: the salt lick in the back meadow, sculpted by four deer tongues into a smooth and pleasing shape, the stand of aspens past the meadow, which I call Aspen Island, and the Adirondack chair, which I've faced towards the meadow and occupy mornings and evenings while practicing my stillness. When I forget just for a moment or two that Panama never took his first breath, never cried, I imagine I will hang these drawings in his perfect room—and that when he is old enough he will beg me to bring him to this place. Each day I walk to the mailbox at the end of my road and pick up a letter from Ray that I will not answer. He has not sent me the books I've asked for, though I've told him precisely where they sit on the shelf. He has asked me instead to come to my senses and to come home. He has said twice, "Mara, this will be my last letter, I swear to God." What strikes me as peculiar about this twice-used line is that he has mentioned God at all—something in our whole time together he's never done, not even in a curse. I burn the letters in the wood stove because I have run out of newspaper and I have difficulty getting the morning fire started. I have started a letter to Jake. I had intended to ask him practical questions—if the red flag is up on the propane tank what do I do to replace it? How often do I throw a scoop of lime down the outhouse hole? Can I drink the water from the tap, or should I buy more water in town? If the cattle come off Forest Service land and onto the property, do I chase them away? I've seen the man in the adjacent meadow do that. Why have you left me with no instructions? I ask none of 52

Still these. Instead, I ask him about thephoto that most interests me—Jake stands, a full foot above, and with his arm around, a small Asian man. Underneath the photo is a typed message on yellowing onion skin paper. "THE THREE MANTRAS O F ADANO C. LEY." The third mantra interests me most, though it is clearly the most ridiculous of the three: "I am physically immortal here and now. I am eating my way to butterflyhood." Underneath the mantras, on a Post-it note, is something labeled "reminder." It says, "eat one almond every morning for every ten pounds you wish to weigh." I write, "Tell me about Adano." The women from our Lamaze class (all due before me) tried to organize a reunion. Our teacher, Shawna, called me to tell me the date, and to ask how our birth went. I could not muster the kindness to soften the blow for her. "Our child was born dead," I said harshly. Then I hung up. She didn't call back, but flowers came the following day. "Sorry for your loss," the card said—as if I'd misplaced something. She was a foolish woman, treating us as though we were her third grade class. On the first night, in an attempt to get us acquainted with one another, she had us form a circle and introduce ourselves. The "moms" were asked to give their names and tell their doctor s names, the "dads" were to give their names and tell their occupations. I said, "I am Mara Thorp and I am an Assistant Professor of Art History at North Central University." Shawna looked at me patiently, as if I had not quite understood the instructions, and asked me for the name of my doctor. Ray and I had a good laugh afterwards. When the class was officially over, the moms were invited to one more session at the instructor's house—the invitation suggested that some kind of important information would be imparted there. Final wisdom about pain management. Instead, a life-size baby doll was passed around and we were each given the chance to fit a newborn size Pampers to its body. I passed, assuring them that I would surely be^able to rise to the occasion when necessary. I wonder now if they had the reunion after all and if they thought it eerie, given the turn of events, that I wouldn't touch the practice baby except to pass it to the next pregnant woman. Since I've been at Jake's, I've had an appetite. If I had people to talk to, they might tell me it's the mountain air. I still have not heard from Jake, though I've written him a second letter. I thought I would 53


Berkeley Fiction Review with a caption—it simply says, "Winder." There are two Post-it notes, both faded from age, one reading, "I wish you your best," and the other saying "equi-flow." There is a paper placemat from a Chinese restaurant featuring "The Year of the Monkey." The placemat tells me that the Monkey year is ruled by the Water element which signifies advancement in human relations, commerce, travel, and in general, communications. I also learn that the natural inventiveness and improvisational qualities of the monkey will bring many new and unconventional ways of doing things. This sounds hopeful, though according to the placemat, I am merely an Ox. I have been here three weeks, and yet I've drawn only three things: the salt lick in the back meadow, sculpted by four deer tongues into a smooth and pleasing shape, the stand of aspens past the meadow, which I call Aspen Island, and the Adirondack chair, which I've faced towards the meadow and occupy mornings and evenings while practicing my stillness. When I forget just for a moment or two that Panama never took his first breath, never cried, I imagine I will hang these drawings in his perfect room—and that when he is old enough he will beg me to bring him to this place. Each day I walk to the mailbox at the end of my road and pick up a letter from Ray that I will not answer. He has not sent me the books I've asked for, though I've told him precisely where they sit on the shelf. He has asked me instead to come to my senses and to come home. He has said twice, "Mara, this will be my last letter, I swear to God." What strikes me as peculiar about this twice-used line is that he has mentioned God at all—something in our whole time together he's never done, not even in a curse. I burn the letters in the wood stove because I have run out of newspaper and I have difficulty getting the morning fire started. I have started a letter to Jake. I had intended to ask him practical questions—if the red flag is up on the propane tank what do I do to replace it? How often do I throw a scoop of lime down the outhouse hole? Can I drink the water from the tap, or should I buy more water in town? If the cattle come off Forest Service land and onto the property, do I chase them away? I've seen the man in the adjacent meadow do that. Why have you left me with no instructions? I ask none of 52

Still these. Instead, I ask him about thephoto that most interests me—Jake stands, a full foot above, and with his arm around, a small Asian man. Underneath the photo is a typed message on yellowing onion skin paper. "THE THREE MANTRAS O F ADANO C. LEY." The third mantra interests me most, though it is clearly the most ridiculous of the three: "I am physically immortal here and now. I am eating my way to butterflyhood." Underneath the mantras, on a Post-it note, is something labeled "reminder." It says, "eat one almond every morning for every ten pounds you wish to weigh." I write, "Tell me about Adano." The women from our Lamaze class (all due before me) tried to organize a reunion. Our teacher, Shawna, called me to tell me the date, and to ask how our birth went. I could not muster the kindness to soften the blow for her. "Our child was born dead," I said harshly. Then I hung up. She didn't call back, but flowers came the following day. "Sorry for your loss," the card said—as if I'd misplaced something. She was a foolish woman, treating us as though we were her third grade class. On the first night, in an attempt to get us acquainted with one another, she had us form a circle and introduce ourselves. The "moms" were asked to give their names and tell their doctor s names, the "dads" were to give their names and tell their occupations. I said, "I am Mara Thorp and I am an Assistant Professor of Art History at North Central University." Shawna looked at me patiently, as if I had not quite understood the instructions, and asked me for the name of my doctor. Ray and I had a good laugh afterwards. When the class was officially over, the moms were invited to one more session at the instructor's house—the invitation suggested that some kind of important information would be imparted there. Final wisdom about pain management. Instead, a life-size baby doll was passed around and we were each given the chance to fit a newborn size Pampers to its body. I passed, assuring them that I would surely be^able to rise to the occasion when necessary. I wonder now if they had the reunion after all and if they thought it eerie, given the turn of events, that I wouldn't touch the practice baby except to pass it to the next pregnant woman. Since I've been at Jake's, I've had an appetite. If I had people to talk to, they might tell me it's the mountain air. I still have not heard from Jake, though I've written him a second letter. I thought I would 53


Berkeley Fiction Review ask him about the mysteries of this place, but I want more from him. I imagine him as a careful man (though nothing about this cabin would suggest that) —I imagine that my letter is in front of him and the responsibility of answering it weighs heavily upon him. He wants to say the right things to me. In the meantime, before he answers with more instructions, I am eating eleven almonds every morning. In a way, I know it is nonsense, but it comforts me to have a means of structuring my life. My own resources sustain me for the rest of the day; I make my drawings and take walks. It is my third week here and I am low on supplies. I'm forced to drive into town. Driving in frightens me—not the road, whose ruts and jolts assure me that I am physically alive and capable of feeling— but meeting people in stores. Though I know no one, I'm afraid that in the dry goods store a kind woman will touch my shoulder and tell me she is sorry about my loss. In the grocery store, I'm afraid I'll meet a pregnant woman resting her hands with an air of propriety on her large belly. I'm afraid that I'll walk onto a sidewalk and Ray will be waiting, that he'll elbow me to the car and we'll drive back in silence to resume our lives. I enter the grocery store, not a country store as I had imagined, but a fully stocked modern supermarket and my anxiety evaporates. The shelves are laden with items which seem impossibly rich and desirable. I buy a quart of heavy cream, three packages of Montrachet, and a large wedge of Brie (as if I will be entertaining). I buy a pound of sweet cream butter, and that is only the beginning. Soon my cart is so full that I have difficulty steering. When I write a check for my purchases, the young man says, "I see you're a long way from home." Though I feel a slight panic, thinking that Ray has warned people to detain me if they see me in town, I realize I'm being irrational and he's simply making polite chat with customers as he's been trained to do. I know that if Ray wishes, he can come for me, he has the address. I buy wine in the liquor store two doors down from the supermarket wondering if the butter will melt, if the cream will go bad before I can get back to the cabin. Next time, I think, I'll bring an ice chest to town. On the way back, I think about the fact that Jake has not answered my letters. It occurs to me that perhaps he is on his way here in person. That he wants to meet me, to talk to me. That he knows, instinctively, 54

Still that a letter won't suffice. Or that as a man of the woods, or a man of the prairie, he is painfully self-conscious about his writing—his scrawl might be childlike, his grammar poor. He cannot articulate what he wants in a letter. According to the wisdom of the Chinese, he is a monkey, resourceful and agile—more resourceful than others in looking for ingenious solutions to problems. I am counting on his wisdom. He will sit me down and tell me how to release sorrow—perhaps he'll liken it to a caged bird, so I'll better understand it. Perhaps we'll open the cage together and this metaphorical sorrow bird will (after a couple of false starts) circle the area, then take flight. Maybe we'll talk about forgiveness. When I get back, I set the groceries in the kitchen, then check the mailbox. There is a package from Ray. It is soft and round like a small pillow placed in a brown padded envelope. The address is written purposefully in black marker. I study my name. MARA. Big, ugly letters. He is angry. There is also a letter from my mother. I open that first. "Mara," she writes, "stop this nonsense now. Ray is suffering terribly. You don't know what you are doing to that man. Please pull yourself together and go home. Daddy and I love you and will do whatever is necessary to help. You've indulged yourself long enough. I've enclosed a ticket for your return. Love, Mom." I put the letter down and wander to Jake's bookshelves, which offer me clues to who he is. I haven't yet put it all together—how the first shelf relates to the third and how all six shelves come together to create Jake—but I feel I'm close. I feel like something will click and I'll know, at the same moment that he reveals himself to me, what it is he can teach me. On the top shelf are the Chiltons Truck and Van Repair manuals. The shelf below contains titles like Basic Wiring and The Complete Home Handyman's Guide. There is also a book called Leather Braidirig. The third shelf contains Jake's fiction collection, which is slim, but has a theme. There are six Zane Grey novels, one hardcover. There are two Herman Hesses, and Dune by Frank Herbert. The fourth shelf has The Lunar Garden, which conjures up pictures of Jake bending over a raised bed of plants harvesting in moonlight. Next to The Lunar Garden is Making Your Own Motor Fuel. Laying flat, pushed up against the previous two, is The Dance of Intimacy and Ways of Growth. There is also a catalogue from the Museum of Northern Ari55


Berkeley Fiction Review ask him about the mysteries of this place, but I want more from him. I imagine him as a careful man (though nothing about this cabin would suggest that) —I imagine that my letter is in front of him and the responsibility of answering it weighs heavily upon him. He wants to say the right things to me. In the meantime, before he answers with more instructions, I am eating eleven almonds every morning. In a way, I know it is nonsense, but it comforts me to have a means of structuring my life. My own resources sustain me for the rest of the day; I make my drawings and take walks. It is my third week here and I am low on supplies. I'm forced to drive into town. Driving in frightens me—not the road, whose ruts and jolts assure me that I am physically alive and capable of feeling— but meeting people in stores. Though I know no one, I'm afraid that in the dry goods store a kind woman will touch my shoulder and tell me she is sorry about my loss. In the grocery store, I'm afraid I'll meet a pregnant woman resting her hands with an air of propriety on her large belly. I'm afraid that I'll walk onto a sidewalk and Ray will be waiting, that he'll elbow me to the car and we'll drive back in silence to resume our lives. I enter the grocery store, not a country store as I had imagined, but a fully stocked modern supermarket and my anxiety evaporates. The shelves are laden with items which seem impossibly rich and desirable. I buy a quart of heavy cream, three packages of Montrachet, and a large wedge of Brie (as if I will be entertaining). I buy a pound of sweet cream butter, and that is only the beginning. Soon my cart is so full that I have difficulty steering. When I write a check for my purchases, the young man says, "I see you're a long way from home." Though I feel a slight panic, thinking that Ray has warned people to detain me if they see me in town, I realize I'm being irrational and he's simply making polite chat with customers as he's been trained to do. I know that if Ray wishes, he can come for me, he has the address. I buy wine in the liquor store two doors down from the supermarket wondering if the butter will melt, if the cream will go bad before I can get back to the cabin. Next time, I think, I'll bring an ice chest to town. On the way back, I think about the fact that Jake has not answered my letters. It occurs to me that perhaps he is on his way here in person. That he wants to meet me, to talk to me. That he knows, instinctively, 54

Still that a letter won't suffice. Or that as a man of the woods, or a man of the prairie, he is painfully self-conscious about his writing—his scrawl might be childlike, his grammar poor. He cannot articulate what he wants in a letter. According to the wisdom of the Chinese, he is a monkey, resourceful and agile—more resourceful than others in looking for ingenious solutions to problems. I am counting on his wisdom. He will sit me down and tell me how to release sorrow—perhaps he'll liken it to a caged bird, so I'll better understand it. Perhaps we'll open the cage together and this metaphorical sorrow bird will (after a couple of false starts) circle the area, then take flight. Maybe we'll talk about forgiveness. When I get back, I set the groceries in the kitchen, then check the mailbox. There is a package from Ray. It is soft and round like a small pillow placed in a brown padded envelope. The address is written purposefully in black marker. I study my name. MARA. Big, ugly letters. He is angry. There is also a letter from my mother. I open that first. "Mara," she writes, "stop this nonsense now. Ray is suffering terribly. You don't know what you are doing to that man. Please pull yourself together and go home. Daddy and I love you and will do whatever is necessary to help. You've indulged yourself long enough. I've enclosed a ticket for your return. Love, Mom." I put the letter down and wander to Jake's bookshelves, which offer me clues to who he is. I haven't yet put it all together—how the first shelf relates to the third and how all six shelves come together to create Jake—but I feel I'm close. I feel like something will click and I'll know, at the same moment that he reveals himself to me, what it is he can teach me. On the top shelf are the Chiltons Truck and Van Repair manuals. The shelf below contains titles like Basic Wiring and The Complete Home Handyman's Guide. There is also a book called Leather Braidirig. The third shelf contains Jake's fiction collection, which is slim, but has a theme. There are six Zane Grey novels, one hardcover. There are two Herman Hesses, and Dune by Frank Herbert. The fourth shelf has The Lunar Garden, which conjures up pictures of Jake bending over a raised bed of plants harvesting in moonlight. Next to The Lunar Garden is Making Your Own Motor Fuel. Laying flat, pushed up against the previous two, is The Dance of Intimacy and Ways of Growth. There is also a catalogue from the Museum of Northern Ari55


Berkeley Fiction Review zona. The museum catalogue is all I've allowed myself to open. There are three glossy pages of Native American cradleboards. I take out my pencils and begin to-draw—first the ones pictured and then my own, more fanciful, beribboned. I stop when I realize I have not unloaded the groceries. The ice cream is puddling on the counter as is the frozen spinach for the spanikopita (who am I making this labor-intensive dish for?). In the propane refrigerator, which barely cools food to forty-five degrees, I file away butter, cream, eggs, cheeses and fruit. I hold Out one pint of blueberries, not even bothering to rinse them before I place them in a bowl and pour heavy cream on top. When I sit at the kitchen table with a spoon large enough to stir batter, I see Ray's package. I carefully pull out the staples and empty its contents on the scarred oak surface. Something white wrapped carefully in tissue paper hits the table with a soft thump. Unwrapping the tissue paper makes the only sound in the house—a rustling like mice. Inside are two tiny gowns, their fronts secured by delicate satin ribbons. They are perfectly folded and never worn. The sound that comes out of me is a wail. Most mornings I climb to the top of Fern Mountain. It takes me thirty minutes to go up and less to come down. To go up I must climb across fallen aspens crisscrossed over the game trails I've learned to follow. I see droppings from elk and deer, sometimes so fresh that I must have just startled them away. When I get past the tree lines to the bald top, the climb is the hardest. I know that I am at almost ten thousand feet and my breath doesn't come easily. At the very top, I can look down at the cabin and at the meadow and aspen island—my chair is a dot. Sometimes I stay for an hour watching Highway 826 expecting Jake's jeep (though I have no confirmation, it's what I imagine he drives) to appear, and that he will rescue me. Other times I talk to Panama. I try to tell my son what his life would have been like, and I tell him all the stories I remember from my own childhood. Some days I recite the first verse of "Dilliky, Dolliky, Dinah, niece she was to the emperor of China, fair she was as a morning in May..." Sometimes I imagine a life with Jake, a life that would be so different from mine there would be no room for my old life, even in the form of memory. I understand now that Jake is a silent man, that he will appreciate that I have learned stillness. I also understand that he has not answered my letters deliber56

Still ately—he knew I would learn more without his answers. If I were to write to Ray, I would tell him more about the elk. Sometimes at dawn and again at dusk the meadow fills with their shadowy figures. I recognize the sounds the cows make—the sounds I first thought sounded like babies crying. The cows are talking to their young. Only onpe have I seen a male; he came alone (to rut?), and his bugling kept'rae awake that night. I would tell Ray, too, that I am sorry for his pain, for the dark hours he must have had before he wrapped the gowns in tissue paper, protecting their whiteness, instinctively, as I might have. I would thank him for the care he took with his most treacherous act. I would tell him that I understand he was saying goodbye, a goodbye without syllables. "Ray," I would say, "I am moving quickly now." Towards what, I do not know. In the afternoons now it rains. When the rain first hits the aluminum roof it sounds as though the mice I share the cabin with are scurrying. It never comes slowly, but begins with big cartoon drops. Yesterday, lightning struck a sixty-foot pine tree. The fire snaked its way up an old lightning scar all the way to the top. People in hidden cabins saw the smoke and flames and came running or driving. I had seen cabins from the top of Fern Mountain, but never imagined people in them. I met my neighbors while we waited for the Forest Service to come put out the blaze. They asked me when Jake wais getting back, and I answered, "Soon." After Panama was born, they brought him to me so I could hold him. He was still warm from my body. They wanted me to see him rather than imagine him as less than perfect—this was the tortured explanation the doctor, whose own wife was pregnant, gave me. I felt as though they wanted me to pull open the blanket and count his fingers and toes, ooh and ahh over his perfect down of reddish, blonde hair. I was to take some perverse pride in my child's perfect physical appearance. When I held the bundle out to Ray, he declined and left the room. This baby, swaddled, almost bandaged in hospital blankets, seemed to have little relation to my tumbling, swimming Panama who was reluctant to leave his perfect world, who floated happily his whole 57


Berkeley Fiction Review zona. The museum catalogue is all I've allowed myself to open. There are three glossy pages of Native American cradleboards. I take out my pencils and begin to-draw—first the ones pictured and then my own, more fanciful, beribboned. I stop when I realize I have not unloaded the groceries. The ice cream is puddling on the counter as is the frozen spinach for the spanikopita (who am I making this labor-intensive dish for?). In the propane refrigerator, which barely cools food to forty-five degrees, I file away butter, cream, eggs, cheeses and fruit. I hold Out one pint of blueberries, not even bothering to rinse them before I place them in a bowl and pour heavy cream on top. When I sit at the kitchen table with a spoon large enough to stir batter, I see Ray's package. I carefully pull out the staples and empty its contents on the scarred oak surface. Something white wrapped carefully in tissue paper hits the table with a soft thump. Unwrapping the tissue paper makes the only sound in the house—a rustling like mice. Inside are two tiny gowns, their fronts secured by delicate satin ribbons. They are perfectly folded and never worn. The sound that comes out of me is a wail. Most mornings I climb to the top of Fern Mountain. It takes me thirty minutes to go up and less to come down. To go up I must climb across fallen aspens crisscrossed over the game trails I've learned to follow. I see droppings from elk and deer, sometimes so fresh that I must have just startled them away. When I get past the tree lines to the bald top, the climb is the hardest. I know that I am at almost ten thousand feet and my breath doesn't come easily. At the very top, I can look down at the cabin and at the meadow and aspen island—my chair is a dot. Sometimes I stay for an hour watching Highway 826 expecting Jake's jeep (though I have no confirmation, it's what I imagine he drives) to appear, and that he will rescue me. Other times I talk to Panama. I try to tell my son what his life would have been like, and I tell him all the stories I remember from my own childhood. Some days I recite the first verse of "Dilliky, Dolliky, Dinah, niece she was to the emperor of China, fair she was as a morning in May..." Sometimes I imagine a life with Jake, a life that would be so different from mine there would be no room for my old life, even in the form of memory. I understand now that Jake is a silent man, that he will appreciate that I have learned stillness. I also understand that he has not answered my letters deliber56

Still ately—he knew I would learn more without his answers. If I were to write to Ray, I would tell him more about the elk. Sometimes at dawn and again at dusk the meadow fills with their shadowy figures. I recognize the sounds the cows make—the sounds I first thought sounded like babies crying. The cows are talking to their young. Only onpe have I seen a male; he came alone (to rut?), and his bugling kept'rae awake that night. I would tell Ray, too, that I am sorry for his pain, for the dark hours he must have had before he wrapped the gowns in tissue paper, protecting their whiteness, instinctively, as I might have. I would thank him for the care he took with his most treacherous act. I would tell him that I understand he was saying goodbye, a goodbye without syllables. "Ray," I would say, "I am moving quickly now." Towards what, I do not know. In the afternoons now it rains. When the rain first hits the aluminum roof it sounds as though the mice I share the cabin with are scurrying. It never comes slowly, but begins with big cartoon drops. Yesterday, lightning struck a sixty-foot pine tree. The fire snaked its way up an old lightning scar all the way to the top. People in hidden cabins saw the smoke and flames and came running or driving. I had seen cabins from the top of Fern Mountain, but never imagined people in them. I met my neighbors while we waited for the Forest Service to come put out the blaze. They asked me when Jake wais getting back, and I answered, "Soon." After Panama was born, they brought him to me so I could hold him. He was still warm from my body. They wanted me to see him rather than imagine him as less than perfect—this was the tortured explanation the doctor, whose own wife was pregnant, gave me. I felt as though they wanted me to pull open the blanket and count his fingers and toes, ooh and ahh over his perfect down of reddish, blonde hair. I was to take some perverse pride in my child's perfect physical appearance. When I held the bundle out to Ray, he declined and left the room. This baby, swaddled, almost bandaged in hospital blankets, seemed to have little relation to my tumbling, swimming Panama who was reluctant to leave his perfect world, who floated happily his whole 57


Berkeley Fiction Review short life in amniotic dark. I wished at that moment that I'd never obeyed their command to push and had stubbornly held him inside forever. From my Adirondack chair, facing the meadow at dusk, I hear a car on the road. It is at some distance, but headed my way. Stretched out in front of me like some inappropriately opulent offering is a carpet of lupine, the purple broken occasionally by the faded red of an Indian paintbrush. Without intending to, I've begun to separate my things from Jake's and pack. At my shoulder is a butterfly, a beautiful, annoying thing. It has been with me for hours. In the adjacent meadow, elks make their way to one of the two ponds. The mothers mew to their young. It is a sweet, plaintive song and no longer disturbs me. Then there are spaces empty of any sound, just the mute whir of the butterfly's wings, and those are the spaces that belong most to me. And then there are footsteps. I close my eyes and breathe in deeply everything I can, then I let go. Ray stands behind me. Only seconds pass before he speaks, but it seems much longer. Even then I don't really register his words, just the comforting cadence of his voice. Though I don't rise and face him when he places his hand on my shoulder, I cover his hand with mine. He is looking at the meadow for the first time. His voice has disturbed the elk, and all at once they thunder away, the very ground vibrating under them, then us. We stay in this position until all is still—then we walk slowly towards the cabin.

58

O c t a v i a

Craig Lauer

A

s Marshall Cross grew older he would often compare the touch and smell of a woman's hair to the long, wet bunch he now held in his hand, and it would make a small part of him, pull away. But at fourteen he didn't yet know this as he carefully ran the dense teeth of the comb and his fingers through the fine strands. The only thing he knew now was that the beauty of the sound these hairs would eventually create rested on this step—this comparatively unimportant step that Terizio made seem as important as making the bow itself, or even the violin, of which he crafted many here in the workshop of Terizio Violins. Over his shoulder Marshall could feel Terizio standing closer than usual, watching each move he made. Trying to ignore this scrutiny, Marshall prepared to clamp this bunch of hairs into the bow—he'd yet to do it on his own successfully. He dipped the knotted end into a small bowl of rosin and held it over a kerosene lamp hanging from the wall above the work table. The rosin popped and sparkled for a moment, then melted into a little glasslike bulb around the knot. "Remember, don't let it burn," Terizio said. "Too long and it becomes brittle." Marshall pulled it away from the flame, afraid he'd ruined it already. But instead of Terizio's excessive sternness making him feel ner59


Berkeley Fiction Review short life in amniotic dark. I wished at that moment that I'd never obeyed their command to push and had stubbornly held him inside forever. From my Adirondack chair, facing the meadow at dusk, I hear a car on the road. It is at some distance, but headed my way. Stretched out in front of me like some inappropriately opulent offering is a carpet of lupine, the purple broken occasionally by the faded red of an Indian paintbrush. Without intending to, I've begun to separate my things from Jake's and pack. At my shoulder is a butterfly, a beautiful, annoying thing. It has been with me for hours. In the adjacent meadow, elks make their way to one of the two ponds. The mothers mew to their young. It is a sweet, plaintive song and no longer disturbs me. Then there are spaces empty of any sound, just the mute whir of the butterfly's wings, and those are the spaces that belong most to me. And then there are footsteps. I close my eyes and breathe in deeply everything I can, then I let go. Ray stands behind me. Only seconds pass before he speaks, but it seems much longer. Even then I don't really register his words, just the comforting cadence of his voice. Though I don't rise and face him when he places his hand on my shoulder, I cover his hand with mine. He is looking at the meadow for the first time. His voice has disturbed the elk, and all at once they thunder away, the very ground vibrating under them, then us. We stay in this position until all is still—then we walk slowly towards the cabin.

58

O c t a v i a

Craig Lauer

A

s Marshall Cross grew older he would often compare the touch and smell of a woman's hair to the long, wet bunch he now held in his hand, and it would make a small part of him, pull away. But at fourteen he didn't yet know this as he carefully ran the dense teeth of the comb and his fingers through the fine strands. The only thing he knew now was that the beauty of the sound these hairs would eventually create rested on this step—this comparatively unimportant step that Terizio made seem as important as making the bow itself, or even the violin, of which he crafted many here in the workshop of Terizio Violins. Over his shoulder Marshall could feel Terizio standing closer than usual, watching each move he made. Trying to ignore this scrutiny, Marshall prepared to clamp this bunch of hairs into the bow—he'd yet to do it on his own successfully. He dipped the knotted end into a small bowl of rosin and held it over a kerosene lamp hanging from the wall above the work table. The rosin popped and sparkled for a moment, then melted into a little glasslike bulb around the knot. "Remember, don't let it burn," Terizio said. "Too long and it becomes brittle." Marshall pulled it away from the flame, afraid he'd ruined it already. But instead of Terizio's excessive sternness making him feel ner59


Berkeley Fiction Review vous, the way he usually felt when someone was finding even the smallest fault with him, Marshall pushed harder to master each new assignment given him on the way to learning Terizio's craft. After Terizio looked at it and said it was acceptable, Marshall pressed the sealed knot into the wedge box at the bottom end of one of Terizio's bows and clamped it into place with a small piece of pine he'd cut himself. "Keep it straight," Terizio said. Marshall was disappointed as Terizio reached out to take the bow from him. "No. Straight."

With the afternoon light in the room dimming into dusk, Joseph Terizio was beginning to feel tired and impatient. He reached out to take the bow from Marshall, frustration showing in his action. "Keep it straight," he said. "No. Straight." Immediately he felt bad for scolding him. He pressed the piece of wood in himself with a single, even push and with a mollified tone said, "Like that." He knew Marshall would get this eventually. He could see indications that Marshall had what was necessary to be good at this art. He handed the bow back to Marshall, who ran a thumb over the flush piece of wood. "When one of my customers lifts this bow to the strings, it has to be perfect. Understand?" Though Terizio was only in his late thirties, his speech was like that of an old man's, exhausted and grandiloquent. It wasn't by choice and he usually didn't realize how he sounded. It was the solitary life he led that made him like this. The hairs properly set in place now, Marshall began a new task Terizio had given him: concealing the knot with a thin plate of ebony overlaid with mother-of-pearl. Terizio was privately excited for him, because after Marshall learned this skill he would begin to learn to use some of the intricate tools that filled the shop, the ones he found so enticing since he'd started working here after school. Terizio stepped up to the table beside Marshall, the early evening sun spilling an orange glow over the work surface. The color reminded Terizio of the varnish he rubbed into his completed instruments be60

Octavia fore hanging them by their necks to dry. He wondered if Marshall noticed it and if he found it beautiful. All day Terizio had been feeling restless. He reached out and leaned his weight against the table, rocking back and forth on his outstretched arms. Standing up straight again he scratched at his shoulder and cracked his neck. Marshall was concentrating on inserting the piece of ebony, and before Terizio knew he was doing it, he reached out for Marshall, rubbed his right hand against the front of Marshall's jeans but never took his eyes off the bow in Marshall's hands.

Marshall's body tensed as he felt the pressure. He didn't move for a moment while Terizio continued to touch him, breathing heavier, instructing Marshall to maintain steady tension on the hairs of the bow. A gross tingle spread through Marshall's legs. In these few seconds he stared at the thin opalescent wafer he held in his hand; it reflected the setting sun. Marshall pulled back then, took just a half-step and pretended to stretch his legs. But he felt the pressure again, harder, more insistent. Everything he was looking at dissolved, and though he still saw things, he was unable to make sense of them. His throat burned and his voice was tight but he managed to say, "I can't get this thing to slide into place," a piece of the mother-of-pearl chipping away on the last word. "I'm sorry," Marshall said, suddenly afraid of getting yelled at for breaking the mother-of-pearl. But there was still the breathing, and pressure. Embarrassed, he dropped the bow onto the table, concentrating on the way the hairs splayed out, almost pretty, across the work surface. The noise interrupted whatever was happening and the pressure stopped.

Terizio breathed sharply one time through his nose and then stepped away from the table. The room seemed darker than it had a moment ago. Terizio turned back to Marshall and said, "Don't worry about the bow. We'll finish it up tomorrow." Their eyes met, and Marshall looked away first. "You'll get it yet, Marshall, don't get frus61


Berkeley Fiction Review vous, the way he usually felt when someone was finding even the smallest fault with him, Marshall pushed harder to master each new assignment given him on the way to learning Terizio's craft. After Terizio looked at it and said it was acceptable, Marshall pressed the sealed knot into the wedge box at the bottom end of one of Terizio's bows and clamped it into place with a small piece of pine he'd cut himself. "Keep it straight," Terizio said. Marshall was disappointed as Terizio reached out to take the bow from him. "No. Straight."

With the afternoon light in the room dimming into dusk, Joseph Terizio was beginning to feel tired and impatient. He reached out to take the bow from Marshall, frustration showing in his action. "Keep it straight," he said. "No. Straight." Immediately he felt bad for scolding him. He pressed the piece of wood in himself with a single, even push and with a mollified tone said, "Like that." He knew Marshall would get this eventually. He could see indications that Marshall had what was necessary to be good at this art. He handed the bow back to Marshall, who ran a thumb over the flush piece of wood. "When one of my customers lifts this bow to the strings, it has to be perfect. Understand?" Though Terizio was only in his late thirties, his speech was like that of an old man's, exhausted and grandiloquent. It wasn't by choice and he usually didn't realize how he sounded. It was the solitary life he led that made him like this. The hairs properly set in place now, Marshall began a new task Terizio had given him: concealing the knot with a thin plate of ebony overlaid with mother-of-pearl. Terizio was privately excited for him, because after Marshall learned this skill he would begin to learn to use some of the intricate tools that filled the shop, the ones he found so enticing since he'd started working here after school. Terizio stepped up to the table beside Marshall, the early evening sun spilling an orange glow over the work surface. The color reminded Terizio of the varnish he rubbed into his completed instruments be60

Octavia fore hanging them by their necks to dry. He wondered if Marshall noticed it and if he found it beautiful. All day Terizio had been feeling restless. He reached out and leaned his weight against the table, rocking back and forth on his outstretched arms. Standing up straight again he scratched at his shoulder and cracked his neck. Marshall was concentrating on inserting the piece of ebony, and before Terizio knew he was doing it, he reached out for Marshall, rubbed his right hand against the front of Marshall's jeans but never took his eyes off the bow in Marshall's hands.

Marshall's body tensed as he felt the pressure. He didn't move for a moment while Terizio continued to touch him, breathing heavier, instructing Marshall to maintain steady tension on the hairs of the bow. A gross tingle spread through Marshall's legs. In these few seconds he stared at the thin opalescent wafer he held in his hand; it reflected the setting sun. Marshall pulled back then, took just a half-step and pretended to stretch his legs. But he felt the pressure again, harder, more insistent. Everything he was looking at dissolved, and though he still saw things, he was unable to make sense of them. His throat burned and his voice was tight but he managed to say, "I can't get this thing to slide into place," a piece of the mother-of-pearl chipping away on the last word. "I'm sorry," Marshall said, suddenly afraid of getting yelled at for breaking the mother-of-pearl. But there was still the breathing, and pressure. Embarrassed, he dropped the bow onto the table, concentrating on the way the hairs splayed out, almost pretty, across the work surface. The noise interrupted whatever was happening and the pressure stopped.

Terizio breathed sharply one time through his nose and then stepped away from the table. The room seemed darker than it had a moment ago. Terizio turned back to Marshall and said, "Don't worry about the bow. We'll finish it up tomorrow." Their eyes met, and Marshall looked away first. "You'll get it yet, Marshall, don't get frus61


Berkeley Fiction Review trated. It takes a long time to find the patience to build violins." He spread his big arms wide as he said this. His white tee shirt pulled tightly against his stomach and drooping, womanlike chest. "It's hard, I know," he said. Marshall didn't say anything. Terizio walked toward the doorway that led out to the little shop in front, closed since five, and flipped on the switch for the overhead lights. Marshall blinked a few times. Terizio strained to focus as he walked toward him. Lifting the bow from the table, Terizio inspected it. He looked up at Marshall and said softly, "You did fine today...just fine, Marshall." He placed the bow back gently on the table, sure now there'd been no damage to his handmade, Brazil-wood bow. "By tomorrow it'll be perfect—a bow ready for the hands of Itzhak Perlman." Then his voice became monotone. "I think that'll be all for today," he said. He lifted the glass cover from around the flame of the kerosene lamp and blew it out, then he turned again and walked through the doorway into the shop.

As Marshall gathered his things from under the counter, where the cash register sat, he noticed his hands were shaking. Picking up his school books and the gym bag that hid his violin case so he wouldn't get made fun of on the bus, he walked toward the door. Terizio stood there waiting. The only light came from the streetlight out front and the workshop in the back. It was hard to see the big displays of violins and violas, lutes, dulcimers and guitars. Marshall tried to move quicklf-so~ he could get out, but his arms and legs felt hollow. He walked past the single small display case that held the two-hundred-and-thirty-year-old violin that he loved so much. It was a large part of the reason he was now here. The carved child's head on its headstock was hard to make out in the dim light. Marshall heard Terizio click open the lock. Startled by the noise, he looked up to see Terizio standing in front of him in the open doorway. The sound of cars entered the room. Terizio reached out for Marshall then, stretched out his arms and embraced him gently. His 62

Octavia chin rested on Marshall's shoulder, and his beard scraped his neck. Before tonight Terizio had never touched him in any way. Terizio mumbled something into his neck, which Marshall strained to make out but couldn't; he could only feel his hot breath. Marshall just stood there waiting, didn't pull away or hug back, which he was strangely inclined to do—maybe out of fear, or some reflex—but his arms were full. Then, simply, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened, Terizio opened up his arms and Marshall stepped outside. "Till tomorrow," Terizio said softly. Marshall turned to say goodbye, but the door was already shut.

In the basement below his workroom and shop, Joseph Terizio kept his supply of select imported woods, along with his molds and gauges and forms that had been handed down from his great grandfather to his grandfather to his father to himself. Violins made by the Terizio family had been played around the world for over a hundred years. In the middle of the floor were his large power woodworking tools that he'd bought after the death of his father, who never permitted them in his own shop. Two floors up, on the floor above the shop where he'd just watched Marshall walk up the street through his front window, was a small museum of antique violins and precursors of the violin, the largest privately owned collection in several states. Above that, in his apartment on the third floor, was Terizio, opening an oilstained wrapper that contained the second half of a sandwich left over from his lunch. He poured himself a large glass of milk to go with it and sat in an overstuffed reading chair, his bare feet on a green hassock. He turned on the local news and listened to the top story while taking hisfirstbite of the sandwich. He took a sip of milk. Some dribbled down onto the plate resting on his lap, some through his beard and down his chin, some onto his white tee shirt. Sliding his hand under the bottom of the shirt, he lifted it against his chin and wiped. He used each day's shirt like this at dinner, and later threw it into a bag to use as a staining and polishing rag. He removed a new one from a plastic wrapper each morning to wear with his single pair of jeans and loafers that he wore without socks regardless of the season.

63


Berkeley Fiction Review trated. It takes a long time to find the patience to build violins." He spread his big arms wide as he said this. His white tee shirt pulled tightly against his stomach and drooping, womanlike chest. "It's hard, I know," he said. Marshall didn't say anything. Terizio walked toward the doorway that led out to the little shop in front, closed since five, and flipped on the switch for the overhead lights. Marshall blinked a few times. Terizio strained to focus as he walked toward him. Lifting the bow from the table, Terizio inspected it. He looked up at Marshall and said softly, "You did fine today...just fine, Marshall." He placed the bow back gently on the table, sure now there'd been no damage to his handmade, Brazil-wood bow. "By tomorrow it'll be perfect—a bow ready for the hands of Itzhak Perlman." Then his voice became monotone. "I think that'll be all for today," he said. He lifted the glass cover from around the flame of the kerosene lamp and blew it out, then he turned again and walked through the doorway into the shop.

As Marshall gathered his things from under the counter, where the cash register sat, he noticed his hands were shaking. Picking up his school books and the gym bag that hid his violin case so he wouldn't get made fun of on the bus, he walked toward the door. Terizio stood there waiting. The only light came from the streetlight out front and the workshop in the back. It was hard to see the big displays of violins and violas, lutes, dulcimers and guitars. Marshall tried to move quicklf-so~ he could get out, but his arms and legs felt hollow. He walked past the single small display case that held the two-hundred-and-thirty-year-old violin that he loved so much. It was a large part of the reason he was now here. The carved child's head on its headstock was hard to make out in the dim light. Marshall heard Terizio click open the lock. Startled by the noise, he looked up to see Terizio standing in front of him in the open doorway. The sound of cars entered the room. Terizio reached out for Marshall then, stretched out his arms and embraced him gently. His 62

Octavia chin rested on Marshall's shoulder, and his beard scraped his neck. Before tonight Terizio had never touched him in any way. Terizio mumbled something into his neck, which Marshall strained to make out but couldn't; he could only feel his hot breath. Marshall just stood there waiting, didn't pull away or hug back, which he was strangely inclined to do—maybe out of fear, or some reflex—but his arms were full. Then, simply, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened, Terizio opened up his arms and Marshall stepped outside. "Till tomorrow," Terizio said softly. Marshall turned to say goodbye, but the door was already shut.

In the basement below his workroom and shop, Joseph Terizio kept his supply of select imported woods, along with his molds and gauges and forms that had been handed down from his great grandfather to his grandfather to his father to himself. Violins made by the Terizio family had been played around the world for over a hundred years. In the middle of the floor were his large power woodworking tools that he'd bought after the death of his father, who never permitted them in his own shop. Two floors up, on the floor above the shop where he'd just watched Marshall walk up the street through his front window, was a small museum of antique violins and precursors of the violin, the largest privately owned collection in several states. Above that, in his apartment on the third floor, was Terizio, opening an oilstained wrapper that contained the second half of a sandwich left over from his lunch. He poured himself a large glass of milk to go with it and sat in an overstuffed reading chair, his bare feet on a green hassock. He turned on the local news and listened to the top story while taking hisfirstbite of the sandwich. He took a sip of milk. Some dribbled down onto the plate resting on his lap, some through his beard and down his chin, some onto his white tee shirt. Sliding his hand under the bottom of the shirt, he lifted it against his chin and wiped. He used each day's shirt like this at dinner, and later threw it into a bag to use as a staining and polishing rag. He removed a new one from a plastic wrapper each morning to wear with his single pair of jeans and loafers that he wore without socks regardless of the season.

63


Berkeley Fiction Review Terizio looked at the TV and wondered if he would see Marshall again after tonight, if Marshall would tell anyone, maybe resulting in Terizio having to deal with the police again. He spoke out loud to the anchorwoman: "This is only the eighth time I've done this," and took another large bite of the sandwich. He could remember each one well. Six of the incidents had been in Philadelphia, the last one the reason he'd moved here two years ago. After that he had promised himself there would be no more. But he had slipped and there was another boy here before Marshall. The boy had been willing, and was fifteen, almost sixteen. Terizio had hired him to work at the store for credit, five dollars an hour, toward a Guild guitar Terizio had on display. Eight hundred ninety-five dollars, Terizio was asking. The boy sat and read Terizio's magazines, tended the cash register which barely needed tending, polished the instruments, playing the guitars as much as polishing them. When one night Terizio touched him, the boy didn't pull away. Instead he looked right at Terizio and said that the five hundred thirty-five dollars he'd worked off already should be enough to cover the cost of the instrument. Something about the boldness of the boy put Terizio off, but it was too late to back out. Afterward the boy left with the guitar and Terizio never saw him again. That was over a year ago and had been simple, so simple that Terizio thought about it often and regretted it; it was ugly, not pure and sweet the way it could be, the way it had been with most of the others. But he was thankful there had been no problems and, until Marshall, had managed to keep himself out of a situation where he'd be tempted.

The feeling Marshall had was something like nausea, like the lingering pain after being punched in the stomach. He thought about the words people would use if he told anyone what happened. Groped. Molested. He knew the words, but none seemed right to him exactly. Each one included him in their bizarre obscenity. He walked past the stores on Mulberry Street. A few had Christmas decorations up already although it was still only November. He readjusted his gym bag to hang on his arm, and shoved his hand into his jacket pocket to keep it warm. He was aware of the place on his 64

Octavia body where Terizio's hand had been. He looked behind him down the hill to see if the next bus was coming, but there were only a few cars on the road. The violin case inside the gym bag banged against his thigh as he took each step, and he felt the violin jostle inside the padded case. He wondered whether he could tell anyone what happened. Would anyone think it was his fault? His parents were divorced and he could picture his mom getting right on the phone with his dad and he could hear a fight breaking out over whose fault it was. He could picture his sister laughing at him or telling her friends. Did he even want to get Terizio in trouble? Terizio was like a brother or a father or a teacher to him. He wondered if maybe he should just go back to the shop tomorrow and hope for the best, or say something to him, ask him not to do it again. Working there had come to be the most important thing in his life and he didn't want to give it up. But right now he hated Terizio. Going back and not going back both seemed ridiculous. He took his hand back out of the pocket and carried the gym bag by the straps to keep the violin from being knocked around. Not long before he started working at Terizio's, playing the violin had been the most important thing to him. From the day he took his first lesson, when he was seven, until just recently, playing was the center of his life, and he'd been told he was a truly gifted musician. He practiced every night with his mother accompanying him or guiding him through scales on the upright piano in the dining room, and he would continue to play even after she excused him, alone in his room. He would make up melodies and play them over and over in a way he found unexplainably satisfying. His mother mistook these compulsive runs as a rigorous, self-imposed practicing regimen. But if it helped his fingering, his coordination, it was only incidental. It did seem to help though. He'd been praised by his teachers, starting with Mrs. Pinsker in elementary school, to Mr. Perkins in junior high, to his biggest supporter, Mr. Randelberger, his private teacher, with whom he'd studied since he began. His fingering was precocious, they all said, his rhythmic sensibility more natural than they'd ever seen. He took his playing seriously from early on, becoming more obsessed with it when his father moved out a few years ago. He'd decided he wanted to go to a music school, eventually play professionally, and he was encouraged by his teachers. 65


Berkeley Fiction Review Terizio looked at the TV and wondered if he would see Marshall again after tonight, if Marshall would tell anyone, maybe resulting in Terizio having to deal with the police again. He spoke out loud to the anchorwoman: "This is only the eighth time I've done this," and took another large bite of the sandwich. He could remember each one well. Six of the incidents had been in Philadelphia, the last one the reason he'd moved here two years ago. After that he had promised himself there would be no more. But he had slipped and there was another boy here before Marshall. The boy had been willing, and was fifteen, almost sixteen. Terizio had hired him to work at the store for credit, five dollars an hour, toward a Guild guitar Terizio had on display. Eight hundred ninety-five dollars, Terizio was asking. The boy sat and read Terizio's magazines, tended the cash register which barely needed tending, polished the instruments, playing the guitars as much as polishing them. When one night Terizio touched him, the boy didn't pull away. Instead he looked right at Terizio and said that the five hundred thirty-five dollars he'd worked off already should be enough to cover the cost of the instrument. Something about the boldness of the boy put Terizio off, but it was too late to back out. Afterward the boy left with the guitar and Terizio never saw him again. That was over a year ago and had been simple, so simple that Terizio thought about it often and regretted it; it was ugly, not pure and sweet the way it could be, the way it had been with most of the others. But he was thankful there had been no problems and, until Marshall, had managed to keep himself out of a situation where he'd be tempted.

The feeling Marshall had was something like nausea, like the lingering pain after being punched in the stomach. He thought about the words people would use if he told anyone what happened. Groped. Molested. He knew the words, but none seemed right to him exactly. Each one included him in their bizarre obscenity. He walked past the stores on Mulberry Street. A few had Christmas decorations up already although it was still only November. He readjusted his gym bag to hang on his arm, and shoved his hand into his jacket pocket to keep it warm. He was aware of the place on his 64

Octavia body where Terizio's hand had been. He looked behind him down the hill to see if the next bus was coming, but there were only a few cars on the road. The violin case inside the gym bag banged against his thigh as he took each step, and he felt the violin jostle inside the padded case. He wondered whether he could tell anyone what happened. Would anyone think it was his fault? His parents were divorced and he could picture his mom getting right on the phone with his dad and he could hear a fight breaking out over whose fault it was. He could picture his sister laughing at him or telling her friends. Did he even want to get Terizio in trouble? Terizio was like a brother or a father or a teacher to him. He wondered if maybe he should just go back to the shop tomorrow and hope for the best, or say something to him, ask him not to do it again. Working there had come to be the most important thing in his life and he didn't want to give it up. But right now he hated Terizio. Going back and not going back both seemed ridiculous. He took his hand back out of the pocket and carried the gym bag by the straps to keep the violin from being knocked around. Not long before he started working at Terizio's, playing the violin had been the most important thing to him. From the day he took his first lesson, when he was seven, until just recently, playing was the center of his life, and he'd been told he was a truly gifted musician. He practiced every night with his mother accompanying him or guiding him through scales on the upright piano in the dining room, and he would continue to play even after she excused him, alone in his room. He would make up melodies and play them over and over in a way he found unexplainably satisfying. His mother mistook these compulsive runs as a rigorous, self-imposed practicing regimen. But if it helped his fingering, his coordination, it was only incidental. It did seem to help though. He'd been praised by his teachers, starting with Mrs. Pinsker in elementary school, to Mr. Perkins in junior high, to his biggest supporter, Mr. Randelberger, his private teacher, with whom he'd studied since he began. His fingering was precocious, they all said, his rhythmic sensibility more natural than they'd ever seen. He took his playing seriously from early on, becoming more obsessed with it when his father moved out a few years ago. He'd decided he wanted to go to a music school, eventually play professionally, and he was encouraged by his teachers. 65


Berkeley Fiction Review Over the past year, though, he could feel things beginning to slip away from him. There had been a subtle change in the way his teachers had been reacting to his playing. Where once they fawned over him, treating him like something of a prodigy, now they were beginning to show more indifference. Mr. Randelberger even expressed open frustration with Marshall's playing recently when he was unable to find a diminished fifth. "You should be able to do this by now," he'd said. Slowly, Marshall became aware that the natural feeling he had had for the violin was slipping away. It had ceased to feel like a part of him, the way it had always felt before. Now he was aware of the pressure of the chinpiece when he played, aware of the feeling of the strings under his fingers as they ran along the neck, and the bow no longer felt like an extension of his hand. He became tense when confronted with an intricate passage, nervous when his mother asked him to match a complex melody line on the piano. He often went to his room after dinner, not to practice but to read—Mad Magazine usually. His mother would play alone, hoping he'd eventually join her, the music of her unspoken expectations coming up through the floor, but he'd pretend not to hear it. She forced him to keep up with his lessons, but he grew to hate even looking at his violin. He started to realize his future would have nothing to do with it. But a few months ago, when he first came into Terizio's shop, he'd seen another side of things.

Without scraping into the trash can the remnants of meat and limp, shredded lettuce and soggy bread, Terizio dropped his plate into the worn white enamel sink. There were dishes in there from last night and this morning. He squirted Palmolive over them and ran hot water until suds bubbled up from the plates and glasses and utensils and the bowl with hardened instant oatmeal. Rinsing his hands under the water, he then wiped them on his shirt. He thought about Marshall, his young body, so slim and not yet entirely masculine, the gentle curve of his neck and back, his thick brown hair and thick lips. "I shouldn't have touched him," he said, walking across the living room. "Oh, God. Damn. Don't tell anyone. 66

Octavia Don't say anything." He undressed and lay across his bed, mumbling, "Come in tomorrow—please. Keep it to yourself...I'm sorry." He masturbated into the tee shirt he'd taken off, pleading with Marshall to be quiet, don't breathe a word. Forgive me. He got up and put the shirt into a brown garbage bag along with a number of others. He'd allow them to accumulate there until he was running short of them down in the work room. He stood naked before the closet where the brown rumpled bag lay and mumbled, "I didn't mean — " Without finishing the thought he said, again, "I'm sorry."

He looked back down the hill and saw the bus come around a corner onto Mulberry and move up the hill toward him. At the intersection Marshall set his books and bag on the curb and shoved both his hands deep into his pockets, waiting for the bus to stop for him. He stood, considering leaving the violin in the gutter, but as the bus pulled up he picked up the bag with the violin inside.

An intricately curled tangle of wood, a single shaving no thicker than heavy bond paper, fell softly to his bare feet. Terizio stood naked on an old worn carpet in his basement, looking down at all the twists of wood shavings. In his life he'd already planed away many trees' worth of wood to create his shapes. He lined the planer back up with the base of the upside-down viced belly and shaved again, scooping out its gut of excess wood in order to find the perfect thinness. This carved piece would eventually be cut with /-holes and united with the rest of the instrument before being claimed by the second violinist of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra as her own. He was creator and she beneficiary of his craft, although sometimes Terizio felt he was the only one who fully understood this. On his stereo played a recording of her performing a Vivaldi solo concerto that she sent along with her order as a gift. Terizio stood with the small oval planer that had once been his grandfather's, discovering the curve of the belly in the wood. 67


Berkeley Fiction Review Over the past year, though, he could feel things beginning to slip away from him. There had been a subtle change in the way his teachers had been reacting to his playing. Where once they fawned over him, treating him like something of a prodigy, now they were beginning to show more indifference. Mr. Randelberger even expressed open frustration with Marshall's playing recently when he was unable to find a diminished fifth. "You should be able to do this by now," he'd said. Slowly, Marshall became aware that the natural feeling he had had for the violin was slipping away. It had ceased to feel like a part of him, the way it had always felt before. Now he was aware of the pressure of the chinpiece when he played, aware of the feeling of the strings under his fingers as they ran along the neck, and the bow no longer felt like an extension of his hand. He became tense when confronted with an intricate passage, nervous when his mother asked him to match a complex melody line on the piano. He often went to his room after dinner, not to practice but to read—Mad Magazine usually. His mother would play alone, hoping he'd eventually join her, the music of her unspoken expectations coming up through the floor, but he'd pretend not to hear it. She forced him to keep up with his lessons, but he grew to hate even looking at his violin. He started to realize his future would have nothing to do with it. But a few months ago, when he first came into Terizio's shop, he'd seen another side of things.

Without scraping into the trash can the remnants of meat and limp, shredded lettuce and soggy bread, Terizio dropped his plate into the worn white enamel sink. There were dishes in there from last night and this morning. He squirted Palmolive over them and ran hot water until suds bubbled up from the plates and glasses and utensils and the bowl with hardened instant oatmeal. Rinsing his hands under the water, he then wiped them on his shirt. He thought about Marshall, his young body, so slim and not yet entirely masculine, the gentle curve of his neck and back, his thick brown hair and thick lips. "I shouldn't have touched him," he said, walking across the living room. "Oh, God. Damn. Don't tell anyone. 66

Octavia Don't say anything." He undressed and lay across his bed, mumbling, "Come in tomorrow—please. Keep it to yourself...I'm sorry." He masturbated into the tee shirt he'd taken off, pleading with Marshall to be quiet, don't breathe a word. Forgive me. He got up and put the shirt into a brown garbage bag along with a number of others. He'd allow them to accumulate there until he was running short of them down in the work room. He stood naked before the closet where the brown rumpled bag lay and mumbled, "I didn't mean — " Without finishing the thought he said, again, "I'm sorry."

He looked back down the hill and saw the bus come around a corner onto Mulberry and move up the hill toward him. At the intersection Marshall set his books and bag on the curb and shoved both his hands deep into his pockets, waiting for the bus to stop for him. He stood, considering leaving the violin in the gutter, but as the bus pulled up he picked up the bag with the violin inside.

An intricately curled tangle of wood, a single shaving no thicker than heavy bond paper, fell softly to his bare feet. Terizio stood naked on an old worn carpet in his basement, looking down at all the twists of wood shavings. In his life he'd already planed away many trees' worth of wood to create his shapes. He lined the planer back up with the base of the upside-down viced belly and shaved again, scooping out its gut of excess wood in order to find the perfect thinness. This carved piece would eventually be cut with /-holes and united with the rest of the instrument before being claimed by the second violinist of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra as her own. He was creator and she beneficiary of his craft, although sometimes Terizio felt he was the only one who fully understood this. On his stereo played a recording of her performing a Vivaldi solo concerto that she sent along with her order as a gift. Terizio stood with the small oval planer that had once been his grandfather's, discovering the curve of the belly in the wood. 67


Berkeley Fiction Review He rubbed his left hand over the wood, felt its smooth concavity, sensed its potential under the existing wood. This aged piece of white, pine was held firmly in place by a leather-coated vice built by his father to hold this particular shape steady without making it susceptible to cracking. So much of what surrounded him in his life were the remains of generations of work that he continued —even though from a young age, and for no clear reason, he had always sensed that it would eventually die with him. He stood in front of a ceramic space heater. He turned the planer over so the blade faced up at him and he blew from it dust and shavings. Warm air washed over the hair of his legs. The first time he saw Marshall he had no intention of touching him exactly; it wasn't that simple. He was deeply attracted to him, felt a strange love for him instantly. At first though he didn't think he'd have the opportunity to act on it—Marshall was just another customer that day, one of a few to come in off the street. He needed to have a crack in his violin repaired, even though he'd seemed more interested in looking at all of Terizio's instruments that he couldn't afford. His expression, to Terizio, was one of perfect beauty—naive and shy but with an obvious intelligence. He didn't look like most of the people who came in to browse and talk, wasting Terizio's time pretending that they had some vague connection to the world of classical music. Perhaps they really loved it, but they had nothing of interest to share with him. But unlike most people Terizio met, he thought Marshall was pure the first time he met him, like all the different woods in his shop. And he noticed that Marshall had been clearly enamored by the "child's-head" violin-Terizio's favorite. Tomorrow afternoon he would see Marshall again, he hoped, and he would make no more advances. He just wanted Marshall to be around him. He thought this—promised this—to himself, blowing wood dust from his nose in an agitated way. He would talk about how his family was very physical—they were always touching each other, hugging, kissing; it was how they showed their love and respect for one another. It was always getting them in trouble, he would say. He would slap Marshall on the back, squeeze his shoulder, rough up his hair, punch his arm, embrace him again (but not so long this time). Or maybe he wouldn't touch him at all, and pretend nothing had happened. If Marshall came back, then either he had been unclear about what happened or he was willing to give Terizio another chance. Or

Octavia r

maybe he was willing to allow Terizio to touch him, but just scared. But, no, he mustn't touch him. He would do nothing but continue to teach him how to craft violins. He would take him in as his full apprentice if Marshall wanted and be thankful to have found in him what he never thought he'd have, what he had been to his father without being given any choice, and what his father had been to his father, and back even a generation before that: an assistant, a partner—his progeny.

Marshall leaned his temple against the cold window of the bus. His head vibrated against the glass as the bus passed through the older residential sections of town, heading toward the newer subdivisions that were laid out over what had once been farmland. His breath left condensation on the window. He thought of the first day he went into Terizio's shop, how he'd laid out his own violin case on the glass counter, embarrassed to reveal his violin while surrounded by so many other more beautiful ones. He'd spoken nervously that day as he fumbled with the clasps, explaining the problem that in another few seconds would be obvious. He watched without blinking, his head turned down as this man picked up the violin, running a thick index finger over the crack that was made when Marshall accidentally dropped it. "Let me take a look at this," the man said. He ran a fingertip along the crack on the front of the violin and felt the rough, exposed fibers of wood. "Are you doing this on the sly, so your parents don't see it, or can I expect to be paid?" He looked down at Marshall across the counter, smiling slightly. "No, no—my mom sent me here," Marshall said, "she knows." He shifted his weight between his feet. "She's been in here before, to have it restrung for me." He ran his fingers over the metal edge of the glass counter, staring in at the display of instrument polishes and chin guards, and strings and pitch pipes. When Terizio said nothing, Marshall turned and wandered back through the store, slowly, walking as if he were approaching a sleeping baby. His eyes fell across each instrument in the large display case, some of them unidentifiable to him but all beautiful. Then he turned and walked over to the solitary display of the single violin atop a pedes69


Berkeley Fiction Review He rubbed his left hand over the wood, felt its smooth concavity, sensed its potential under the existing wood. This aged piece of white, pine was held firmly in place by a leather-coated vice built by his father to hold this particular shape steady without making it susceptible to cracking. So much of what surrounded him in his life were the remains of generations of work that he continued —even though from a young age, and for no clear reason, he had always sensed that it would eventually die with him. He stood in front of a ceramic space heater. He turned the planer over so the blade faced up at him and he blew from it dust and shavings. Warm air washed over the hair of his legs. The first time he saw Marshall he had no intention of touching him exactly; it wasn't that simple. He was deeply attracted to him, felt a strange love for him instantly. At first though he didn't think he'd have the opportunity to act on it—Marshall was just another customer that day, one of a few to come in off the street. He needed to have a crack in his violin repaired, even though he'd seemed more interested in looking at all of Terizio's instruments that he couldn't afford. His expression, to Terizio, was one of perfect beauty—naive and shy but with an obvious intelligence. He didn't look like most of the people who came in to browse and talk, wasting Terizio's time pretending that they had some vague connection to the world of classical music. Perhaps they really loved it, but they had nothing of interest to share with him. But unlike most people Terizio met, he thought Marshall was pure the first time he met him, like all the different woods in his shop. And he noticed that Marshall had been clearly enamored by the "child's-head" violin-Terizio's favorite. Tomorrow afternoon he would see Marshall again, he hoped, and he would make no more advances. He just wanted Marshall to be around him. He thought this—promised this—to himself, blowing wood dust from his nose in an agitated way. He would talk about how his family was very physical—they were always touching each other, hugging, kissing; it was how they showed their love and respect for one another. It was always getting them in trouble, he would say. He would slap Marshall on the back, squeeze his shoulder, rough up his hair, punch his arm, embrace him again (but not so long this time). Or maybe he wouldn't touch him at all, and pretend nothing had happened. If Marshall came back, then either he had been unclear about what happened or he was willing to give Terizio another chance. Or

Octavia r

maybe he was willing to allow Terizio to touch him, but just scared. But, no, he mustn't touch him. He would do nothing but continue to teach him how to craft violins. He would take him in as his full apprentice if Marshall wanted and be thankful to have found in him what he never thought he'd have, what he had been to his father without being given any choice, and what his father had been to his father, and back even a generation before that: an assistant, a partner—his progeny.

Marshall leaned his temple against the cold window of the bus. His head vibrated against the glass as the bus passed through the older residential sections of town, heading toward the newer subdivisions that were laid out over what had once been farmland. His breath left condensation on the window. He thought of the first day he went into Terizio's shop, how he'd laid out his own violin case on the glass counter, embarrassed to reveal his violin while surrounded by so many other more beautiful ones. He'd spoken nervously that day as he fumbled with the clasps, explaining the problem that in another few seconds would be obvious. He watched without blinking, his head turned down as this man picked up the violin, running a thick index finger over the crack that was made when Marshall accidentally dropped it. "Let me take a look at this," the man said. He ran a fingertip along the crack on the front of the violin and felt the rough, exposed fibers of wood. "Are you doing this on the sly, so your parents don't see it, or can I expect to be paid?" He looked down at Marshall across the counter, smiling slightly. "No, no—my mom sent me here," Marshall said, "she knows." He shifted his weight between his feet. "She's been in here before, to have it restrung for me." He ran his fingers over the metal edge of the glass counter, staring in at the display of instrument polishes and chin guards, and strings and pitch pipes. When Terizio said nothing, Marshall turned and wandered back through the store, slowly, walking as if he were approaching a sleeping baby. His eyes fell across each instrument in the large display case, some of them unidentifiable to him but all beautiful. Then he turned and walked over to the solitary display of the single violin atop a pedes69


Berkeley Fiction Review tal, encased in glass in the middle of the shop. He thought it was the most beautiful violin, the most beautiful thing, he'd ever seen, burnished to a hue that looked like fire at night. He stared, then read the small card in front of it: Crafted in 1762 by Benedict Octavia in Florence. The young boy's head carved into the scroll is of an unknown subject and it is unclear why it has been immortalized in wood. It is perhaps the finest surviving example of Benedict Octavia s use of select woods and careful attention to varnishes, and the only known "Octavia" with a stylized scroll. Benedict Octavia died in 1767 at the age of 38. J. Terizio, Owner Marshall stared at the head of the child. He studied the texture of the face, the realistic earlobes and slightly flaring nostrils, the graceful way it emerged from the neck of the violin. The glass of the display case vibrated as Terizio approached. He held a different violin case with a blue wrinkled tag dangling from the worn handle. "I believe we can save it," he said. "Here's a loaner so you don't lose your touch in the meantime. If you want to play with the London Philharmonic, you can't miss a day." This remark sent a sudden, though vague, flash of heat through the space behind Marshall's sternum. He had hoped for a respite of a few days, but accepted the violin and tightened his lips together, intending to look thankful. He forced out the words, "Thank you." "Would you like to hold it?" Terizio asked. Marshall stared at him. "I can't see any harm in it, although it has been held by remarkably few people in its long lifetime. You would be among kings and princes, along with a short list of collectors before my father bought it." Marshall looked in at the violin and nodded. He looked back at Terizio and said quietly, "Okay." Terizio smiled and said, "Hold on," and walked through the doorway to a back room. He returned with a ring of small keys, one of which opened the rear of this glass case, and he took out the violin. "I 70

Octavia keep the strings slack so the tension doesn't warp the neck, and they're too old to tune or else you'd be able to hear its wonderful timbre. Which is probably a good thing or you'd never want to give it back." Marshall was nervous as Terizio handed him the violin. Its lightness surprised him. It was even lighter than his own, though it's luster was so deep that he believed he could see into the depth of the wood through its richly oiled surface. It seemed as though it should have been more substantial than it was, weightier than his own, that it should have declared its own existence in a more forceful way rather than with the whisper of matter Marshall cradled in his arms. His stomach was tight and his fingers stiff. He didn't want to be holding it anymore, though he didn't want to give it back yet. "You know how to handle a violin," Terizio said. "You should learn to repair your own, and restring and rebridge it when you need to. Any violinist worth his weight should know at least that. If you enjoy it, and you're talented enough, maybe someday you can learn to make a violin like this Octavia." He removed the violin from Marshall's hands and took it over behind the counter, where he polished it thoroughly. He placed the violin back in its glass case. "How would you like that?" he asked. "By the way, my name is Terizio...but call me Joseph."

Terizio swept a feather duster over glass display cases, over plants, over the paintings in his museum on the second floor. He was restless, wandering. He removed an 1826 Lupot from the display case and polished its back thoroughly, though there were no smudges on it as it had been under glass since the last time he polished it several weeks before. But a violin needed to be handled, he believed; whether it was oil from the hands or its need to feel the vibrations of the strings—for whatever reason, a violin lost certain subtle intonations if it sat dormant for too long. He adjusted the bridge under the imported catgut strings. Even though these instruments were almost never played, when they were—by a visiting concert violinist, or a potential client who was deciding among various styles—he wanted their full potential to be 71


Berkeley Fiction Review tal, encased in glass in the middle of the shop. He thought it was the most beautiful violin, the most beautiful thing, he'd ever seen, burnished to a hue that looked like fire at night. He stared, then read the small card in front of it: Crafted in 1762 by Benedict Octavia in Florence. The young boy's head carved into the scroll is of an unknown subject and it is unclear why it has been immortalized in wood. It is perhaps the finest surviving example of Benedict Octavia s use of select woods and careful attention to varnishes, and the only known "Octavia" with a stylized scroll. Benedict Octavia died in 1767 at the age of 38. J. Terizio, Owner Marshall stared at the head of the child. He studied the texture of the face, the realistic earlobes and slightly flaring nostrils, the graceful way it emerged from the neck of the violin. The glass of the display case vibrated as Terizio approached. He held a different violin case with a blue wrinkled tag dangling from the worn handle. "I believe we can save it," he said. "Here's a loaner so you don't lose your touch in the meantime. If you want to play with the London Philharmonic, you can't miss a day." This remark sent a sudden, though vague, flash of heat through the space behind Marshall's sternum. He had hoped for a respite of a few days, but accepted the violin and tightened his lips together, intending to look thankful. He forced out the words, "Thank you." "Would you like to hold it?" Terizio asked. Marshall stared at him. "I can't see any harm in it, although it has been held by remarkably few people in its long lifetime. You would be among kings and princes, along with a short list of collectors before my father bought it." Marshall looked in at the violin and nodded. He looked back at Terizio and said quietly, "Okay." Terizio smiled and said, "Hold on," and walked through the doorway to a back room. He returned with a ring of small keys, one of which opened the rear of this glass case, and he took out the violin. "I 70

Octavia keep the strings slack so the tension doesn't warp the neck, and they're too old to tune or else you'd be able to hear its wonderful timbre. Which is probably a good thing or you'd never want to give it back." Marshall was nervous as Terizio handed him the violin. Its lightness surprised him. It was even lighter than his own, though it's luster was so deep that he believed he could see into the depth of the wood through its richly oiled surface. It seemed as though it should have been more substantial than it was, weightier than his own, that it should have declared its own existence in a more forceful way rather than with the whisper of matter Marshall cradled in his arms. His stomach was tight and his fingers stiff. He didn't want to be holding it anymore, though he didn't want to give it back yet. "You know how to handle a violin," Terizio said. "You should learn to repair your own, and restring and rebridge it when you need to. Any violinist worth his weight should know at least that. If you enjoy it, and you're talented enough, maybe someday you can learn to make a violin like this Octavia." He removed the violin from Marshall's hands and took it over behind the counter, where he polished it thoroughly. He placed the violin back in its glass case. "How would you like that?" he asked. "By the way, my name is Terizio...but call me Joseph."

Terizio swept a feather duster over glass display cases, over plants, over the paintings in his museum on the second floor. He was restless, wandering. He removed an 1826 Lupot from the display case and polished its back thoroughly, though there were no smudges on it as it had been under glass since the last time he polished it several weeks before. But a violin needed to be handled, he believed; whether it was oil from the hands or its need to feel the vibrations of the strings—for whatever reason, a violin lost certain subtle intonations if it sat dormant for too long. He adjusted the bridge under the imported catgut strings. Even though these instruments were almost never played, when they were—by a visiting concert violinist, or a potential client who was deciding among various styles—he wanted their full potential to be 71


Berkeley Fiction Review demonstrated, so he kept only the best strings on them, which he would tune up quickly, proud of his own accurate pitch, before handing it over. All except for the child's head violin downstairs. No one played that violin. He returned the Lupot to its bed of blue satin. It had been a long time since he'd played a violin in earnest, since he'd done more than run a scale or pluck a harmonic to tune it. His father had suppressed Terizio's playing after a point in his adolescence, believing it got in the way of crafting violins. Playing would come between Terizio and the instrument he was creating; it would tempt him to introduce his own whims into the design, and that was not what being a violin craftsman was about. It was about accuracy, mathematics, attention to the finest detail, perfection. No stroke with the file should be made while thinking about how the violin would feel in his own hands as he played on it his favorite Dvorak piece; no scrape with a planer, no brush of varnish should be made while imagining how it would glow under the lights of a performance hall. Nothing is done by caprice; it is done by precision, and nothing else will work. Terizio's father repeated this admonition often. Instead of polishing the rest of the instruments that didn't really need it, Terizio closed the display case, turned off the lamps and the overhead light, and walked downstairs to his shop, a ring of jangling keys around his wrist. The air was cold as he walked down the stairs, naked still. He twisted the little cylindrical switch that turned on the display lamp of his most valued instrument. All the other lights were off and the room was shadowy. He opened the glass case and removed his Octavia, cradled it in his arms, ran his hand over the carved head, felt its shape in the cup of his meaty palm. He carried it back into his shop and laid it gently on the work table, on a clean cloth, and lit the kerosene lamp that hung from the wall. He thought of what he would teach Marshall tomorrow. He would push him forward, teach him new skills to keep him from getting bored, reward him for his good work so far. Terizio's own father had not even shown him that kind of consideration. He thought, as he removed the old strings from the violin, that there had never been a question, never a question but that he would carry on his father's vocation, never for him an option. In the flickering lamplight, surrounded by tools and violin parts, he felt as if he were his own grandfather in a shop in Venice, working 72

Octavia deep into the night, by the light of a flame, while his family, his wife, his daughters, his son slept; the son that would someday bring the shop to America and work deep into the night himself. And then his son, and his son, and on. Terizio removed a small square packet from a drawer and took from it an E string. From the drawer beside it he removed from at least a hundred others a bridge he carved himself. He lifted the violin and began to restring it. It had been a long time since he'd played. Maybe tomorrow he would show Marshall how to bridge and string a violin; Marshall would like that. And he would try, try not to touch him.

With difficulty Marshall opened the zipper of his gym bag. His fingers burned and itched from the change in temperature between the bus and the cold air outside. He stood at the intersection of his street and the busy road where the bus had just dropped him, looking toward his townhouse at the end of the flat road. It was halfway around the cul-de-sac about a hundred yards away. From where he stood, he could see the lights in his house. He knew his mother and older sister were inside, getting dinner ready, talking about their day. He was already thinking up the lie. He put the violin case down on the road. It was quiet except for the sound of a distant car, approaching or receding, he couldn't tell. He undid the three clasps and looked at the violin, which was hard to see in the dim light. He ran his right index finger over the spot where there had been a crack that ran all the way from the base up to the right /-hole. He could feel no trace of it and was unable to see the scar that Terizio had covered up. A truck approached on the main road. Its headlights slid over the scroll and neck and poured over the soundboard before passing. As the wind from the truck hit him, he snapped the clasps shut with the violin still inside. He gathered it up and carried it to the open mouth of a drainage pipe big enough to crawl through that ran under the main road. To get to the opening he climbed down a steep embankment. He knew now he'd never see Terizio again, and in a strange way was already begin-

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Berkeley Fiction Review demonstrated, so he kept only the best strings on them, which he would tune up quickly, proud of his own accurate pitch, before handing it over. All except for the child's head violin downstairs. No one played that violin. He returned the Lupot to its bed of blue satin. It had been a long time since he'd played a violin in earnest, since he'd done more than run a scale or pluck a harmonic to tune it. His father had suppressed Terizio's playing after a point in his adolescence, believing it got in the way of crafting violins. Playing would come between Terizio and the instrument he was creating; it would tempt him to introduce his own whims into the design, and that was not what being a violin craftsman was about. It was about accuracy, mathematics, attention to the finest detail, perfection. No stroke with the file should be made while thinking about how the violin would feel in his own hands as he played on it his favorite Dvorak piece; no scrape with a planer, no brush of varnish should be made while imagining how it would glow under the lights of a performance hall. Nothing is done by caprice; it is done by precision, and nothing else will work. Terizio's father repeated this admonition often. Instead of polishing the rest of the instruments that didn't really need it, Terizio closed the display case, turned off the lamps and the overhead light, and walked downstairs to his shop, a ring of jangling keys around his wrist. The air was cold as he walked down the stairs, naked still. He twisted the little cylindrical switch that turned on the display lamp of his most valued instrument. All the other lights were off and the room was shadowy. He opened the glass case and removed his Octavia, cradled it in his arms, ran his hand over the carved head, felt its shape in the cup of his meaty palm. He carried it back into his shop and laid it gently on the work table, on a clean cloth, and lit the kerosene lamp that hung from the wall. He thought of what he would teach Marshall tomorrow. He would push him forward, teach him new skills to keep him from getting bored, reward him for his good work so far. Terizio's own father had not even shown him that kind of consideration. He thought, as he removed the old strings from the violin, that there had never been a question, never a question but that he would carry on his father's vocation, never for him an option. In the flickering lamplight, surrounded by tools and violin parts, he felt as if he were his own grandfather in a shop in Venice, working 72

Octavia deep into the night, by the light of a flame, while his family, his wife, his daughters, his son slept; the son that would someday bring the shop to America and work deep into the night himself. And then his son, and his son, and on. Terizio removed a small square packet from a drawer and took from it an E string. From the drawer beside it he removed from at least a hundred others a bridge he carved himself. He lifted the violin and began to restring it. It had been a long time since he'd played. Maybe tomorrow he would show Marshall how to bridge and string a violin; Marshall would like that. And he would try, try not to touch him.

With difficulty Marshall opened the zipper of his gym bag. His fingers burned and itched from the change in temperature between the bus and the cold air outside. He stood at the intersection of his street and the busy road where the bus had just dropped him, looking toward his townhouse at the end of the flat road. It was halfway around the cul-de-sac about a hundred yards away. From where he stood, he could see the lights in his house. He knew his mother and older sister were inside, getting dinner ready, talking about their day. He was already thinking up the lie. He put the violin case down on the road. It was quiet except for the sound of a distant car, approaching or receding, he couldn't tell. He undid the three clasps and looked at the violin, which was hard to see in the dim light. He ran his right index finger over the spot where there had been a crack that ran all the way from the base up to the right /-hole. He could feel no trace of it and was unable to see the scar that Terizio had covered up. A truck approached on the main road. Its headlights slid over the scroll and neck and poured over the soundboard before passing. As the wind from the truck hit him, he snapped the clasps shut with the violin still inside. He gathered it up and carried it to the open mouth of a drainage pipe big enough to crawl through that ran under the main road. To get to the opening he climbed down a steep embankment. He knew now he'd never see Terizio again, and in a strange way was already begin-

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Berkeley Fiction Review ning to miss him. He tossed the violin in as far as he could, hoping it wouldn't eventually wash back out. He'd check it tomorrow, and the. next day, and for weeks after that until it faded from his m e m o r y buried through the winters, decomposed through springs, changed through seasons of his life from the thing it had once been into something unrecognizable. He kicked small branches and leaves in after it. He threw several large rocks in as far as he could, trying to overshoot it, their hollow bangs and reverberations jarring him. The case would lodge itself against one of the rocks and remain hidden for good—he would make sure of it. He gathered his books from the side of the road, stuffed them into his gym bag, and contemplated the story he'd tell his mom to explain what happened to his violin. He wouldn't tell anyone about what Terizio had done, ever, even if he got into trouble for making something up to hide it. He would forget about violins—playing them, building them, caring in any way about them.

Terizio lifted a bow. The note he played was sweet to him and he could feel it behind his closed eyes and in his chest as he added vibrato. He could feel it in his stomach and groin and down his lower spine. It was simple and sounded beautiful inside this shop where a single flame burned steadily and a man worked alone, sometimes — often lately—deep into the night. He wished Marshall was here to see this. Maybe tomorrow. The flame lit up the face of an unknown boy carved into the headstock of a violin, while Terizio played.

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Y o u

D o n

t N e e d

a

Q u a r t e r

Jimmy J. Pack Jr.

S

he had been in the store since 5:30. The huge clock above the cash registers read 7:30. She wanted to get home to rest and her son Jackie was hungry. He played around the gumball machines, looking inside the chutes at the gumballs and small containers of slime and plastic rings with plastic gems. She counted her coupons making sure she had the items to match. Jackie walked up to her and asked for a quarter. "Mommy doesn't have a quarter." She placed the coupons on top of the bread and the cashier grabbed them. "But I want to get something out of the gumball machines." "Mommy doesn't have any money." "Then how are you buying the groceries?" "Shut up." Jackie went back to the gumball machines and tried to reach up into them and pull a gumball out. His mother watched the cash register add up each item, making sure the sale price rang in. She heard Jackie say "Ow!" She looked over at him and said, "Good. You deserve it." The cashier looked at her briefly and went back to scanning items. "Mommy. I need a quarter." "You don't need a quarter. Wait until we get home, you can have a sandwich.2' 75


Berkeley Fiction Review ning to miss him. He tossed the violin in as far as he could, hoping it wouldn't eventually wash back out. He'd check it tomorrow, and the. next day, and for weeks after that until it faded from his m e m o r y buried through the winters, decomposed through springs, changed through seasons of his life from the thing it had once been into something unrecognizable. He kicked small branches and leaves in after it. He threw several large rocks in as far as he could, trying to overshoot it, their hollow bangs and reverberations jarring him. The case would lodge itself against one of the rocks and remain hidden for good—he would make sure of it. He gathered his books from the side of the road, stuffed them into his gym bag, and contemplated the story he'd tell his mom to explain what happened to his violin. He wouldn't tell anyone about what Terizio had done, ever, even if he got into trouble for making something up to hide it. He would forget about violins—playing them, building them, caring in any way about them.

Terizio lifted a bow. The note he played was sweet to him and he could feel it behind his closed eyes and in his chest as he added vibrato. He could feel it in his stomach and groin and down his lower spine. It was simple and sounded beautiful inside this shop where a single flame burned steadily and a man worked alone, sometimes — often lately—deep into the night. He wished Marshall was here to see this. Maybe tomorrow. The flame lit up the face of an unknown boy carved into the headstock of a violin, while Terizio played.

74

Y o u

D o n

t N e e d

a

Q u a r t e r

Jimmy J. Pack Jr.

S

he had been in the store since 5:30. The huge clock above the cash registers read 7:30. She wanted to get home to rest and her son Jackie was hungry. He played around the gumball machines, looking inside the chutes at the gumballs and small containers of slime and plastic rings with plastic gems. She counted her coupons making sure she had the items to match. Jackie walked up to her and asked for a quarter. "Mommy doesn't have a quarter." She placed the coupons on top of the bread and the cashier grabbed them. "But I want to get something out of the gumball machines." "Mommy doesn't have any money." "Then how are you buying the groceries?" "Shut up." Jackie went back to the gumball machines and tried to reach up into them and pull a gumball out. His mother watched the cash register add up each item, making sure the sale price rang in. She heard Jackie say "Ow!" She looked over at him and said, "Good. You deserve it." The cashier looked at her briefly and went back to scanning items. "Mommy. I need a quarter." "You don't need a quarter. Wait until we get home, you can have a sandwich.2' 75


Berkeley Fiction Review "But I had a sandwich all week." She leaned over and put her face in front of his so when he focused on her nose, her eyes became one. "If you don't stop it right now I swear to god I'm going to smack you." She stood back and folded her arms. The cashier started to add up the coupons. Jackie stood by the machines staring at the gumballs. An elderly man walked up to him. "Want a gumball, eh?" Jackie nodded his head. The man put a quarter in the slot, turned the knob, and told Jackie to put his hands under the chute. As the man lifted up the door, a blue sphere of gummy sugar landed in Jackie's hands. Jackie's mother watched the old man walk away with his cane in one hand and a half-gallon of milk in the other. Jackie walked up to his mother and showed her the gumball. "See. It didn't matter if you didn't have a quarter. I saved you." She took the gumball out of Jackie's hand and smacked him across the face. "Do you know that man? What did I tell you about strangers?" She shoved the gumball in her purse and it landed on top of old tissue, three dimes and a penny.

R a i n

Bridget Hoida

Y

esterday was out of hand. Hysterical and crying the blonde was on the phone. She was trying to tell Bruce something. He wasn't listening. "Jane, you sound upset," he said. That was because she was upset. She was terribly, uncontrollably upset. Hysterical she called it: womb suffering. She didn't know why this came to mind now. She only knew that she hurt and if it didn't stop soon she was going to lose. Not it, rather everything. "Hey," he said, "did you know Jack can do three-hundred push-ups? I didn't think he could, so I bet him twenty bucks and just now he went and did it. Shit!" "Shit," she repeated and then removing the phone from her ear said, "Red, did you know that Jack can do three-hundred push-ups?" And then she began to cry even more uncontrolled than before and Red took the phone out of her hand, placed it on the cradle and said that it would be okay. It wouldn't.

While Red made reservations, the blonde hailed a cab. It was time to leave and wearing only jeans and tank tops, they were ready to go. She had booked a room at the Claremont, on a whim and in desperate 76

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Berkeley Fiction Review "But I had a sandwich all week." She leaned over and put her face in front of his so when he focused on her nose, her eyes became one. "If you don't stop it right now I swear to god I'm going to smack you." She stood back and folded her arms. The cashier started to add up the coupons. Jackie stood by the machines staring at the gumballs. An elderly man walked up to him. "Want a gumball, eh?" Jackie nodded his head. The man put a quarter in the slot, turned the knob, and told Jackie to put his hands under the chute. As the man lifted up the door, a blue sphere of gummy sugar landed in Jackie's hands. Jackie's mother watched the old man walk away with his cane in one hand and a half-gallon of milk in the other. Jackie walked up to his mother and showed her the gumball. "See. It didn't matter if you didn't have a quarter. I saved you." She took the gumball out of Jackie's hand and smacked him across the face. "Do you know that man? What did I tell you about strangers?" She shoved the gumball in her purse and it landed on top of old tissue, three dimes and a penny.

R a i n

Bridget Hoida

Y

esterday was out of hand. Hysterical and crying the blonde was on the phone. She was trying to tell Bruce something. He wasn't listening. "Jane, you sound upset," he said. That was because she was upset. She was terribly, uncontrollably upset. Hysterical she called it: womb suffering. She didn't know why this came to mind now. She only knew that she hurt and if it didn't stop soon she was going to lose. Not it, rather everything. "Hey," he said, "did you know Jack can do three-hundred push-ups? I didn't think he could, so I bet him twenty bucks and just now he went and did it. Shit!" "Shit," she repeated and then removing the phone from her ear said, "Red, did you know that Jack can do three-hundred push-ups?" And then she began to cry even more uncontrolled than before and Red took the phone out of her hand, placed it on the cradle and said that it would be okay. It wouldn't.

While Red made reservations, the blonde hailed a cab. It was time to leave and wearing only jeans and tank tops, they were ready to go. She had booked a room at the Claremont, on a whim and in desperate 76

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Berkeley Fiction Review need to get out. It was raining and January and when they arrived the boy at the door took their stuff: an umbrella, a bottle of Tanqueray and a plastic GAP bag with two bikinis. It was probably a spectacle marching into a place like that with thirteen minutes notice and no coat, but neither of them cared. They were polite and in the middle of a process that refused to be interrupted by anyone. There was a naked woman in the sauna. She was probably one-hundred and five. She had long blue hair and she was twisting it into little knots all over the top of her head. For the most part she was thin, without hips or thighs, like a boy. Her stomach, however, was bloated. Not round really, but noticeable as though she were three months pregnant. And her belly button seemed to be missing, as if it were disguised somewhere within her skin, or concealed between her breasts. The blonde would have searched it out further if she had not been distracted by the woman's cunt. Her cunt had absolutely no hair. She had been coming here for thirty years, she said. Of course she had, the blonde thought. It seemed to be the most natural thing in the world. As though one day, if she made it through tonight, through the next seven months, she too would be coming here for the next thirty years. It was hot. She took off her towel and sat next to the woman; she divided her blonde hair into little sections and then began to twist each strand into a tiny knot. Not soon after, Red entered. She stared first at the woman and then at the blonde. "I feel as though I'm. "Don't say it," the blonde said as she turned her back on the woman, picked up her towel, moved to the corner and shut her eyes to the heat. She tried to pretend she was in the desert. For some reason she believed that in the desert things were different. In the desert it wouldn't rain.

They had been living together for three weeks. After Bruce moved to New York, the blonde ran to The Chronicle and placed an ad. The redhead answered and moved in five hours later. It took thirteen days to fall in love, and even less to fall apart. Right now the blonde's really fucked up. This redhead is lying next to 78

Rain her and she's in love of course. The first time ever with a woman, but not like that, of course. Naked they are identical. In the dark their voices are indistinguishable. What theblonde despised the most was when she picked up the phone and he said, "Hello, love." "Love doesn't live here." What the blonde wanted to do was to hang up. But instead she said "Vincent" and tossed the phone across the room to Red. The redhead cooed. The blonde glared. She was in the kitchen, feigning interest in the boiling noodles while the two of them kissed on the phone. It's not that's she's listening, but rather that god-awful kissy noise that makes her want to crawl into the receiver, run through the wires and slam the boiling pot into his head. The blonde and the redhead were drunk when it happened. Vinny was in San Diego for a week and the two of them had quite a time. Dressed like they knew it and open to trouble, they ended up in Rohnert Park with a car that wasn't theirs and an attitude they called abandon. All night they danced, and only with each other and everyone knew as they silently watched. Blondie and Red. TWQ nights later they were iri bed. Drunk again. At a party again. In love again. On a bed in the back room and laughing with one another so that everyone turned to look. And they looked often, though not a one of them ever knew what to make of it. It was continuous and unlike anything the blonde had experienced before. Red either. They talked. How it was all for them. Everything. How it was a stage, and every time the sun came up they clapped appreciatively and exclaimed. In the daylight things changed. Obviously. You should never be drunk enough to forget. You miss the whole point then. When Vinny returned things got sober. He was a circumcised pansy. He couldn't get it up. Not that she knew for sure, but Red had said once, once when they were holding hands down Haste Street, overdressed and insane, that he was soft. It figures, she thought. And when she saw him; and when he called the redhead "love," she grew slightly 79


Berkeley Fiction Review need to get out. It was raining and January and when they arrived the boy at the door took their stuff: an umbrella, a bottle of Tanqueray and a plastic GAP bag with two bikinis. It was probably a spectacle marching into a place like that with thirteen minutes notice and no coat, but neither of them cared. They were polite and in the middle of a process that refused to be interrupted by anyone. There was a naked woman in the sauna. She was probably one-hundred and five. She had long blue hair and she was twisting it into little knots all over the top of her head. For the most part she was thin, without hips or thighs, like a boy. Her stomach, however, was bloated. Not round really, but noticeable as though she were three months pregnant. And her belly button seemed to be missing, as if it were disguised somewhere within her skin, or concealed between her breasts. The blonde would have searched it out further if she had not been distracted by the woman's cunt. Her cunt had absolutely no hair. She had been coming here for thirty years, she said. Of course she had, the blonde thought. It seemed to be the most natural thing in the world. As though one day, if she made it through tonight, through the next seven months, she too would be coming here for the next thirty years. It was hot. She took off her towel and sat next to the woman; she divided her blonde hair into little sections and then began to twist each strand into a tiny knot. Not soon after, Red entered. She stared first at the woman and then at the blonde. "I feel as though I'm. "Don't say it," the blonde said as she turned her back on the woman, picked up her towel, moved to the corner and shut her eyes to the heat. She tried to pretend she was in the desert. For some reason she believed that in the desert things were different. In the desert it wouldn't rain.

They had been living together for three weeks. After Bruce moved to New York, the blonde ran to The Chronicle and placed an ad. The redhead answered and moved in five hours later. It took thirteen days to fall in love, and even less to fall apart. Right now the blonde's really fucked up. This redhead is lying next to 78

Rain her and she's in love of course. The first time ever with a woman, but not like that, of course. Naked they are identical. In the dark their voices are indistinguishable. What theblonde despised the most was when she picked up the phone and he said, "Hello, love." "Love doesn't live here." What the blonde wanted to do was to hang up. But instead she said "Vincent" and tossed the phone across the room to Red. The redhead cooed. The blonde glared. She was in the kitchen, feigning interest in the boiling noodles while the two of them kissed on the phone. It's not that's she's listening, but rather that god-awful kissy noise that makes her want to crawl into the receiver, run through the wires and slam the boiling pot into his head. The blonde and the redhead were drunk when it happened. Vinny was in San Diego for a week and the two of them had quite a time. Dressed like they knew it and open to trouble, they ended up in Rohnert Park with a car that wasn't theirs and an attitude they called abandon. All night they danced, and only with each other and everyone knew as they silently watched. Blondie and Red. TWQ nights later they were iri bed. Drunk again. At a party again. In love again. On a bed in the back room and laughing with one another so that everyone turned to look. And they looked often, though not a one of them ever knew what to make of it. It was continuous and unlike anything the blonde had experienced before. Red either. They talked. How it was all for them. Everything. How it was a stage, and every time the sun came up they clapped appreciatively and exclaimed. In the daylight things changed. Obviously. You should never be drunk enough to forget. You miss the whole point then. When Vinny returned things got sober. He was a circumcised pansy. He couldn't get it up. Not that she knew for sure, but Red had said once, once when they were holding hands down Haste Street, overdressed and insane, that he was soft. It figures, she thought. And when she saw him; and when he called the redhead "love," she grew slightly 79


Berkeley Fiction Review insane. Not because he owned her, but because he thought he did and she stood for it as she stood for his hands in her hair: as though it was all right. Red needed to dump him. Dump him soon and flat on his ass. Of course the blonde was a hypocrite. She had one too. But with her, she claimed, it was different. Hers went to Montana looking for bar fights, lived in New York, and never called. That was the only difference really, but it was enough. Enough to let the blonde pose as free while the redhead was trapped. Whenever things went too far Red had Vinny. That's how they got back home in one piece. That's why she only drank when he was out of town. That's why she couldn't swallow more than a shot without getting tipsy. It was all right. It could have been fabulous. When they got back to the apartment a mutual friend was on the machine. He said to be careful. He said not to blow up any truckers, not to castrate any bikers, and generally not to drive the convertible off a cliff in the middle of New Mexico. They both laughed. They weren't trying to be type-cast. They just were. When Red really did go over the edge, the blonde laughed. Then she followed. It had been the blonde's idea. Red had returned from the shower and announced that it was too long. "Well cut it then," the blonde had said. The redhead look startled as if she had never thought of that before. They called the salon. They couldn't get her in for another four days. "No," said Red, "that just isn't good enough." So she opened her drawer and pulled out an orange handled scissors. "You do it," she told the blonde, and of course, the blonde had been wanting to do it for months, hell her whole life, but she made Red do the first cut. It was amazing. Hair falling all over the floor in giant red curls, still perfect, still heavy with something unexplainable. When it was done she didn't look like herself. The blonde grabbed her around the shoulders and bent her head near Red's face so thev were 80

Rain confused and staring each other in the eye through the mirror before them. "You're free now," the blonde whispered. "I know," Red replied. "I don't know," Red said, "but for some reason I think Vinny has a very real reason to be jealous of you." "Yeah, they never quite understand the two of us do they?" "No, you don't understand," she said. "I've fallen out of love with him. It happened a while ago. I was in the shower." Said in triumph, it sounded more to the blonde like an accusation. The two women stood staring at one another until at last, and more to herself than to the redhead, the blonde spoke. "It's not like I want to marry him or anything. I just want him to know. I want him to be there in case anything happens." Red reached a hand through her newly cut hair. "But what about me?" she said. The blonde hadn't thought about that. She thought it was obvious. She turned to Red and said, "You didn't think I'd go to New York alone did you?" But it was a good question. And what if leaving meant losing her forever, as it inevitably would? A large part of cutting off her hair had to do with what on earth they were going to do with it afterwards. Red believed in Voo-Doo, so they couldn't throw it away. There were millions of options really. Most involved a convertible and top speeds, but thjey had neither. When they left the house there was an oFange Porsche parked out front. They bojth froze, then walked towards it slowly. "Red, this is it," the blonde said. "The desert," said the redhead. "No, New York," said the blonde. Right now the hair was in a large plastic bag in their closet. They had already rejected planting it, tossing it, and mailing it off to an unknown address. The blonde thought that perhaps they could sell it, but the redhead thought that was morbid, so they were back to deciding. "Remember when you were little and your mother would cut your hair outside and just leave it there, so that days later, when you were up 81


Berkeley Fiction Review insane. Not because he owned her, but because he thought he did and she stood for it as she stood for his hands in her hair: as though it was all right. Red needed to dump him. Dump him soon and flat on his ass. Of course the blonde was a hypocrite. She had one too. But with her, she claimed, it was different. Hers went to Montana looking for bar fights, lived in New York, and never called. That was the only difference really, but it was enough. Enough to let the blonde pose as free while the redhead was trapped. Whenever things went too far Red had Vinny. That's how they got back home in one piece. That's why she only drank when he was out of town. That's why she couldn't swallow more than a shot without getting tipsy. It was all right. It could have been fabulous. When they got back to the apartment a mutual friend was on the machine. He said to be careful. He said not to blow up any truckers, not to castrate any bikers, and generally not to drive the convertible off a cliff in the middle of New Mexico. They both laughed. They weren't trying to be type-cast. They just were. When Red really did go over the edge, the blonde laughed. Then she followed. It had been the blonde's idea. Red had returned from the shower and announced that it was too long. "Well cut it then," the blonde had said. The redhead look startled as if she had never thought of that before. They called the salon. They couldn't get her in for another four days. "No," said Red, "that just isn't good enough." So she opened her drawer and pulled out an orange handled scissors. "You do it," she told the blonde, and of course, the blonde had been wanting to do it for months, hell her whole life, but she made Red do the first cut. It was amazing. Hair falling all over the floor in giant red curls, still perfect, still heavy with something unexplainable. When it was done she didn't look like herself. The blonde grabbed her around the shoulders and bent her head near Red's face so thev were 80

Rain confused and staring each other in the eye through the mirror before them. "You're free now," the blonde whispered. "I know," Red replied. "I don't know," Red said, "but for some reason I think Vinny has a very real reason to be jealous of you." "Yeah, they never quite understand the two of us do they?" "No, you don't understand," she said. "I've fallen out of love with him. It happened a while ago. I was in the shower." Said in triumph, it sounded more to the blonde like an accusation. The two women stood staring at one another until at last, and more to herself than to the redhead, the blonde spoke. "It's not like I want to marry him or anything. I just want him to know. I want him to be there in case anything happens." Red reached a hand through her newly cut hair. "But what about me?" she said. The blonde hadn't thought about that. She thought it was obvious. She turned to Red and said, "You didn't think I'd go to New York alone did you?" But it was a good question. And what if leaving meant losing her forever, as it inevitably would? A large part of cutting off her hair had to do with what on earth they were going to do with it afterwards. Red believed in Voo-Doo, so they couldn't throw it away. There were millions of options really. Most involved a convertible and top speeds, but thjey had neither. When they left the house there was an oFange Porsche parked out front. They bojth froze, then walked towards it slowly. "Red, this is it," the blonde said. "The desert," said the redhead. "No, New York," said the blonde. Right now the hair was in a large plastic bag in their closet. They had already rejected planting it, tossing it, and mailing it off to an unknown address. The blonde thought that perhaps they could sell it, but the redhead thought that was morbid, so they were back to deciding. "Remember when you were little and your mother would cut your hair outside and just leave it there, so that days later, when you were up 81


Berkeley Fiction Review playing in the trees you saw your hair woven into a bird's nest?" "You're not serious are you?" "You mean that never happened to you?" "No." But the blonde had no problem believing that it had happened to Red. The house was noisy, the heater was loud and everyone was sleepless. Red climbed up to the loft. "Hey," Red said. "Hey," the blonde replied and made room for Red to lie down next to her. She reached for her hand. That's as far as it went. That's as far as it would ever go. It wasn't sex they were after, it was alchemy. Though they didn't know it yet, three weeks later, in the desert, they would build a fire. It would be a large consuming mass of color and heat. They would build it for release, but before they would be able to turn away, they would have to confront everything. The redhead would sit on a small hill and the blonde would lie on her back in the sand. When the heat got too intense she would shut her eyes. They would both be naked. Eventually the gulping red flames would shrink into a small platinum blaze shielding crimson coals. They would kiss, but only once. Before this could happen, however, they would have to dissolve their restraints. They would have to be pure. They would have to be clean. "Do you think," Red asked, "that a person could be in love with more than one man at the same time?" "Yes." "It's not the same with women though is it?" "No." They were in the loft. The redhead fell asleep. The blonde lay awake. She remembered a conversation some time ago with a lesbian friend. "I don't get it," she had said. "I don't understand how you can be with a women. Isn't there a moment, any time when you need to be flicked. Fucked hard by a man? Aren't you into the power and the smell and the suffocation when he lies on top of you and you wonder if you'll ever move again?" "No," the woman had said. "I've never really had that moment." 82

Rain "Oh," said the blonde. The blonde ran her hand through the short, red hair scattered all over the pillows in an attempt to order the chaos. The redhead, still sleepy, looked up. "Giraldi kissed me last night at the party," she said. The blonde smiled. "Yeah?" "I liked it, but...." "You can make love to more than one person you know." "I know, but until now, I just never have." The next day Red wasn't herself. She just wandered around the apartment and in the middle of the afternoon put on her jacket and left. The blonde felt mildly responsible and tried to keep out of it. Red and Vinny were "meant for each other," but in her eyes it made no sense. The blonde had been there. She assumed she knew what it was like. When Bruce moved to New York she ran to Frisco. She'd kill him if they lived too close. It had nothing to do with love and everything to do with geography. There was only one place where they could love and be happy. Too bad it was Iowa. Too bad about the snow. , So until then, they lived apart, preferring one another, but seeing other people. 3,000 miles away, and you can't stop living. It was a game, really. To see who could come up with the greater outrage. This month the blonde was winning: A Brazilian diplomat and a twenty-eight year old with a Beemer. There were months when he had the edge though. There was a certain pre-med student from London, and too many redheads to count. Until now she had hated redheads. Now it was her turn to have one. God what was she doing? She left. In December, before Red and the rain, the blonde had agreed to meet Bruce in a hotel, in Manhattan. They drank a lot. They talked a lot. They made love and she cried and then they drank some more. The hotel was a dive. The closet had no doors and the walls were thmand the plumbing ran overhead unconcealed by plaster and most everyone paid by the month or the hour except the two of them and it was beautiful. 83


Berkeley Fiction Review playing in the trees you saw your hair woven into a bird's nest?" "You're not serious are you?" "You mean that never happened to you?" "No." But the blonde had no problem believing that it had happened to Red. The house was noisy, the heater was loud and everyone was sleepless. Red climbed up to the loft. "Hey," Red said. "Hey," the blonde replied and made room for Red to lie down next to her. She reached for her hand. That's as far as it went. That's as far as it would ever go. It wasn't sex they were after, it was alchemy. Though they didn't know it yet, three weeks later, in the desert, they would build a fire. It would be a large consuming mass of color and heat. They would build it for release, but before they would be able to turn away, they would have to confront everything. The redhead would sit on a small hill and the blonde would lie on her back in the sand. When the heat got too intense she would shut her eyes. They would both be naked. Eventually the gulping red flames would shrink into a small platinum blaze shielding crimson coals. They would kiss, but only once. Before this could happen, however, they would have to dissolve their restraints. They would have to be pure. They would have to be clean. "Do you think," Red asked, "that a person could be in love with more than one man at the same time?" "Yes." "It's not the same with women though is it?" "No." They were in the loft. The redhead fell asleep. The blonde lay awake. She remembered a conversation some time ago with a lesbian friend. "I don't get it," she had said. "I don't understand how you can be with a women. Isn't there a moment, any time when you need to be flicked. Fucked hard by a man? Aren't you into the power and the smell and the suffocation when he lies on top of you and you wonder if you'll ever move again?" "No," the woman had said. "I've never really had that moment." 82

Rain "Oh," said the blonde. The blonde ran her hand through the short, red hair scattered all over the pillows in an attempt to order the chaos. The redhead, still sleepy, looked up. "Giraldi kissed me last night at the party," she said. The blonde smiled. "Yeah?" "I liked it, but...." "You can make love to more than one person you know." "I know, but until now, I just never have." The next day Red wasn't herself. She just wandered around the apartment and in the middle of the afternoon put on her jacket and left. The blonde felt mildly responsible and tried to keep out of it. Red and Vinny were "meant for each other," but in her eyes it made no sense. The blonde had been there. She assumed she knew what it was like. When Bruce moved to New York she ran to Frisco. She'd kill him if they lived too close. It had nothing to do with love and everything to do with geography. There was only one place where they could love and be happy. Too bad it was Iowa. Too bad about the snow. , So until then, they lived apart, preferring one another, but seeing other people. 3,000 miles away, and you can't stop living. It was a game, really. To see who could come up with the greater outrage. This month the blonde was winning: A Brazilian diplomat and a twenty-eight year old with a Beemer. There were months when he had the edge though. There was a certain pre-med student from London, and too many redheads to count. Until now she had hated redheads. Now it was her turn to have one. God what was she doing? She left. In December, before Red and the rain, the blonde had agreed to meet Bruce in a hotel, in Manhattan. They drank a lot. They talked a lot. They made love and she cried and then they drank some more. The hotel was a dive. The closet had no doors and the walls were thmand the plumbing ran overhead unconcealed by plaster and most everyone paid by the month or the hour except the two of them and it was beautiful. 83


Berkeley Fiction Review

Then he left her. She left him. Before the leaving they discussed their options. She was to meet him in Greenwich in the spring. He'd come to Frisco and they'd catch a gig at Bruno's, or something. "Or something," he had agreed. Twenty-eight days later, she was ten days late.

When the blonde woke up she was alone with the one-hundred year old woman and the hairless cunt. She was hot, and had fallen out of love with the promise of the desert, so she went outside to find Red, in the pool, in the rain. The redhead had what was left of her hair secured with a rubber band on the top of her head and was attempting to float on her back without getting it wet. The blonde stared at her from the edge. "Do you think," she said, "if I held my breath and jumped really far?" "No," said Red. "You can't drown it out of you. But when the time comes, I'll hold your hand. I promise." The blonde raised her arms above her head, sucked in her stomach with her breath, and dove in. The water rippled softly. There was no splash, only the quiet dancing sound of the rain as it fell onto the pool and was consumed by chlorine. The drive to the clinic was slippery. The cabby was from the Netherlands and babbled on about moving to California to escape the weather. The blonde stared at her hands folded softly in her lap and tried to block out the squeaking of the wipers. The redhead looked out the window at the painted umbrellas and sighed. Twenty-three miles past Randsburg, 15 miles from Highway 178, on the left hand side of an unpaved road just outside of China Lake is the last stop for gas until Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley. The woman who runs the station is named Mickey. She's got skin like leather and came to the desert in 1943. If you ask why, she will tell you it was because she's afraid of the rain. 84

Rain

Until this moment the blonde had never understood how someone could fear the rain. Now, told to strip and place her feet in the metal stirrups, she wonders how she failed to realize sooner. There is a machine running placid in the comer. A thin blue robe is covering her breasts. "Are you certain?" the nurse asks. The blonde refuses to speak. Her teeth are clenched. Nodding her absolute, she reaches for Red's hand and shuts her eyes. Eyes closed, she remembers the rain, the cold, and how it all began. They were sixteen, lying naked on the floor of his bedroom listening to Tom Waits and he was on top. "Do you want to. I mean should I. Get something, I mean." "Yes," she said. He whispered to her not to go anywhere as he got up and left the room. She lay there, naked, on her back and looked up at the ceiling. When the C D ended she listened to the rain. Without him on top she began to get cold. "Where are you?" she thinks of screaming. But to scream she would have to unlock her jaw, and at this point that is not at all possible. They insert a syringe into her cervix. She continues to rage. "Where are you? Where are you?" "Where are you?" she asked aloud to no reply. She lifted herself up onto her elbows and looked by her breasts, past her stomach, to her feet. She still had her socks on. Actually, they weren't even hers and she thought how strange it was to be thinking about them now. They belonged to her brother. She stole them before she came over, because at his place she always got cold. Usually she borrowed Bruce's socks, but this time she was particularly proud because she thought to bring her own and she made a point of telling him so. He had laughed. She rubbed her left foot up the opposite leg. The wool itched. Her nipples began to harden and she was starting to get goose bumps. When she saw them pop up in little clusters all over her calves and 85


Berkeley Fiction Review

Then he left her. She left him. Before the leaving they discussed their options. She was to meet him in Greenwich in the spring. He'd come to Frisco and they'd catch a gig at Bruno's, or something. "Or something," he had agreed. Twenty-eight days later, she was ten days late.

When the blonde woke up she was alone with the one-hundred year old woman and the hairless cunt. She was hot, and had fallen out of love with the promise of the desert, so she went outside to find Red, in the pool, in the rain. The redhead had what was left of her hair secured with a rubber band on the top of her head and was attempting to float on her back without getting it wet. The blonde stared at her from the edge. "Do you think," she said, "if I held my breath and jumped really far?" "No," said Red. "You can't drown it out of you. But when the time comes, I'll hold your hand. I promise." The blonde raised her arms above her head, sucked in her stomach with her breath, and dove in. The water rippled softly. There was no splash, only the quiet dancing sound of the rain as it fell onto the pool and was consumed by chlorine. The drive to the clinic was slippery. The cabby was from the Netherlands and babbled on about moving to California to escape the weather. The blonde stared at her hands folded softly in her lap and tried to block out the squeaking of the wipers. The redhead looked out the window at the painted umbrellas and sighed. Twenty-three miles past Randsburg, 15 miles from Highway 178, on the left hand side of an unpaved road just outside of China Lake is the last stop for gas until Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley. The woman who runs the station is named Mickey. She's got skin like leather and came to the desert in 1943. If you ask why, she will tell you it was because she's afraid of the rain. 84

Rain

Until this moment the blonde had never understood how someone could fear the rain. Now, told to strip and place her feet in the metal stirrups, she wonders how she failed to realize sooner. There is a machine running placid in the comer. A thin blue robe is covering her breasts. "Are you certain?" the nurse asks. The blonde refuses to speak. Her teeth are clenched. Nodding her absolute, she reaches for Red's hand and shuts her eyes. Eyes closed, she remembers the rain, the cold, and how it all began. They were sixteen, lying naked on the floor of his bedroom listening to Tom Waits and he was on top. "Do you want to. I mean should I. Get something, I mean." "Yes," she said. He whispered to her not to go anywhere as he got up and left the room. She lay there, naked, on her back and looked up at the ceiling. When the C D ended she listened to the rain. Without him on top she began to get cold. "Where are you?" she thinks of screaming. But to scream she would have to unlock her jaw, and at this point that is not at all possible. They insert a syringe into her cervix. She continues to rage. "Where are you? Where are you?" "Where are you?" she asked aloud to no reply. She lifted herself up onto her elbows and looked by her breasts, past her stomach, to her feet. She still had her socks on. Actually, they weren't even hers and she thought how strange it was to be thinking about them now. They belonged to her brother. She stole them before she came over, because at his place she always got cold. Usually she borrowed Bruce's socks, but this time she was particularly proud because she thought to bring her own and she made a point of telling him so. He had laughed. She rubbed her left foot up the opposite leg. The wool itched. Her nipples began to harden and she was starting to get goose bumps. When she saw them pop up in little clusters all over her calves and 85


Berkeley Fiction Review thighs, she began to cry. She stood up, turned the stereo to high, hit play, grabbed her clothes and locked herself in the bathroom. Something is thrust deep into her vagina. The redhead winces and holds tighter. The bathroom was baby yellow and had artificial sunflowers in a clay pot by the sink. She sat on the counter with her knees pulled up under her chin. He knocked on the door and when she didn't answer, he tried the handle. "Jane? It's me, open up." "Go away." "Jane. Janey, honey what is it? What happened?" "Go away." "Janey, if you open the door we can talk. Come on, unlock the door. Please?" "I don't want to talk." He knocked a few more times and rattled the knob, but she made no move to get up. She just sat and stared at the door, intent on the handle, trying to make it blur. "Jane this is ridiculous. You've locked yourself in the fucking bathroom. Open the door Jane." She said nothing. "Jane are you all right? Janey, please?" The motor continues. She feels as if the entirety of her soul is being sucked away and lost forever in the whirling rectangular box. Outside the rain falls harder. She was sobbing as she jumped down from the counter. She walked to the door and was almost going to unlock it when she decided to get in the shower instead. He was quiet for a long time, or maybe the falling water so close to her ears diluted his voice, but when she turned it off, all she could hear was the swirling of the drain and she was frightened. "Bruce?" "Yeah, Jane." 86

Rain "Are you still there?" "Yes. Sweetheart will you open the door?" "What are you doing?" "I'm waiting for you to open the door." "I can't." "Why not Jane? Why can't you open the door?" "I just can't Bruce. I can't." He was quiet and then he sighed. She began to hiccup and her breathing became deep and irregular. "Janey, can you do something else for me?" She wiped her nose on the back of her hand and whispered, "Maybe." "I want you to sit down in front of the door and I want you to put your hand right here." He knocked on the door, in a place near the middle and she opened her fingers and placed her palm where she thought he had knocked. "Okay." "And your hand is right here?" He knocked again. "Yes," she said moving it a little to the left. "Good," he said, "my hand is there to, only it's on the other side. Janey you don't have to open the door, just promise me you'll sit there and not move your hand okay? I need to know you're still with me somehow." "Okay," she said) "I promise." "I promise," she repeats. "I prom—" The nurse interrupts, "It's nearly over." The blonde feels nothing. Red, still holding tight to her hand, has begun to cry. SmalHiquid drops fall down her cheeks and land softly on the blue paper gown where they are absorbed by the coarse fabric, leaving blots much larger than the actual tears themselves. They sat there for hours, Bruce in the hall and Jane in the baby yellow bathroom. Her blonde hair was wet and dripping into her eyes, and her naked butt was cpld on the tan,linoleum, but she didn't stand up and she didn't move her hand. The nurse affixes a two-inch thick pad between the blonde s legs to prevent the blood from spilling out. The blonde rips it off. Intense pu87


Berkeley Fiction Review thighs, she began to cry. She stood up, turned the stereo to high, hit play, grabbed her clothes and locked herself in the bathroom. Something is thrust deep into her vagina. The redhead winces and holds tighter. The bathroom was baby yellow and had artificial sunflowers in a clay pot by the sink. She sat on the counter with her knees pulled up under her chin. He knocked on the door and when she didn't answer, he tried the handle. "Jane? It's me, open up." "Go away." "Jane. Janey, honey what is it? What happened?" "Go away." "Janey, if you open the door we can talk. Come on, unlock the door. Please?" "I don't want to talk." He knocked a few more times and rattled the knob, but she made no move to get up. She just sat and stared at the door, intent on the handle, trying to make it blur. "Jane this is ridiculous. You've locked yourself in the fucking bathroom. Open the door Jane." She said nothing. "Jane are you all right? Janey, please?" The motor continues. She feels as if the entirety of her soul is being sucked away and lost forever in the whirling rectangular box. Outside the rain falls harder. She was sobbing as she jumped down from the counter. She walked to the door and was almost going to unlock it when she decided to get in the shower instead. He was quiet for a long time, or maybe the falling water so close to her ears diluted his voice, but when she turned it off, all she could hear was the swirling of the drain and she was frightened. "Bruce?" "Yeah, Jane." 86

Rain "Are you still there?" "Yes. Sweetheart will you open the door?" "What are you doing?" "I'm waiting for you to open the door." "I can't." "Why not Jane? Why can't you open the door?" "I just can't Bruce. I can't." He was quiet and then he sighed. She began to hiccup and her breathing became deep and irregular. "Janey, can you do something else for me?" She wiped her nose on the back of her hand and whispered, "Maybe." "I want you to sit down in front of the door and I want you to put your hand right here." He knocked on the door, in a place near the middle and she opened her fingers and placed her palm where she thought he had knocked. "Okay." "And your hand is right here?" He knocked again. "Yes," she said moving it a little to the left. "Good," he said, "my hand is there to, only it's on the other side. Janey you don't have to open the door, just promise me you'll sit there and not move your hand okay? I need to know you're still with me somehow." "Okay," she said) "I promise." "I promise," she repeats. "I prom—" The nurse interrupts, "It's nearly over." The blonde feels nothing. Red, still holding tight to her hand, has begun to cry. SmalHiquid drops fall down her cheeks and land softly on the blue paper gown where they are absorbed by the coarse fabric, leaving blots much larger than the actual tears themselves. They sat there for hours, Bruce in the hall and Jane in the baby yellow bathroom. Her blonde hair was wet and dripping into her eyes, and her naked butt was cpld on the tan,linoleum, but she didn't stand up and she didn't move her hand. The nurse affixes a two-inch thick pad between the blonde s legs to prevent the blood from spilling out. The blonde rips it off. Intense pu87


Berkeley Fiction Review rity requires a complete concession to flow. The nurse refuses to comply. She tells the nurse to fuck off. The redhead presses her nails into the soft flesh of the blonde's palm. Long after the C D had ended for the second time, and her hair had stopped dripping in her eyes, and her foot had woken up, she stood, moved her hand over to the knob and unlocked the door. He was still seated. She took off her socks, damp and soggy and dropped them to the floor. "Did you shower with them on or something?" "No," she said. "It was the rain." V e n i c e

On the ride back to.their apartment the rain continued, but strung out on codeine, the blonde didn't much notice. She had her knees tucked up under her chin and her feet were stretched out in front of her body, pressing hard against the torn gray vinyl of the front seat. The redhead was still crying and though she continued to hold the blonde's hand, she could not bear to look her in the eyes. Through her tears the umbrellas seemed more blurry than before and squinting past the rain all she could make out was color, violent and pure.

Ellery Washington C.

O

n Friday night, at seven thirty, I quit my job. "I can't swallow any more shit," I told my boss. I gripped my tie, "I'm full." My boss looked up from her desk, squinted, then looked back down.

The blonde refused to walk for nearly a week, and didn't feel whole for nearly three, allowing her 504 hours in which to compose just what it was she was going to say.

R-] on Saturday, I woke up early, cried 'til noon then put my sunglasses on and went out for coffee. The Westside LA streets were bright and crowded, and when I made it to Borders I ran into Stan. I had just paid for my juiced beans. Shit. Stan stood very tall wearing jeans and a gray T-shirt. His hair was damp which made it look more brown than blonde. Or maybe it was the tint on my glasses. Either way, Stan is usually blonde. "You look awful," he said. "Thanks," I said, "excuse me, I need some sugar." I stepped past Stan to grab two packets of sugar from the ledge behind him. 'Sugar in the Raw' the packets read, and I ripped their tops together. Light brown crystals fell into the coffee and melted slow. I didn't stir. And when I turned back to see if Stan was gone, he wasn't.

The phone rang. Red answered. "Blondie," she said, "it's Bruce." And as she passed the phone across the room she held the blonde in her eyes unable to say anything. Unable to look away. Unable to leave the room. ;t

"Bruce," said the blonde, beginning the monologue. "Bruce," but she couldn't; he interrupted. "Jane," he said, "you sound upset." She had been crying. When she heard his voice she started up again. 504 hours and nothing had changed between them. Jack came in and did some more push-ups, it was double or nothing. Red took the receiver from her hands and hung up the phone. They left for the desert. Without the rain things were okay.

89 M L .


Berkeley Fiction Review rity requires a complete concession to flow. The nurse refuses to comply. She tells the nurse to fuck off. The redhead presses her nails into the soft flesh of the blonde's palm. Long after the C D had ended for the second time, and her hair had stopped dripping in her eyes, and her foot had woken up, she stood, moved her hand over to the knob and unlocked the door. He was still seated. She took off her socks, damp and soggy and dropped them to the floor. "Did you shower with them on or something?" "No," she said. "It was the rain." V e n i c e

On the ride back to.their apartment the rain continued, but strung out on codeine, the blonde didn't much notice. She had her knees tucked up under her chin and her feet were stretched out in front of her body, pressing hard against the torn gray vinyl of the front seat. The redhead was still crying and though she continued to hold the blonde's hand, she could not bear to look her in the eyes. Through her tears the umbrellas seemed more blurry than before and squinting past the rain all she could make out was color, violent and pure.

Ellery Washington C.

O

n Friday night, at seven thirty, I quit my job. "I can't swallow any more shit," I told my boss. I gripped my tie, "I'm full." My boss looked up from her desk, squinted, then looked back down.

The blonde refused to walk for nearly a week, and didn't feel whole for nearly three, allowing her 504 hours in which to compose just what it was she was going to say.

R-] on Saturday, I woke up early, cried 'til noon then put my sunglasses on and went out for coffee. The Westside LA streets were bright and crowded, and when I made it to Borders I ran into Stan. I had just paid for my juiced beans. Shit. Stan stood very tall wearing jeans and a gray T-shirt. His hair was damp which made it look more brown than blonde. Or maybe it was the tint on my glasses. Either way, Stan is usually blonde. "You look awful," he said. "Thanks," I said, "excuse me, I need some sugar." I stepped past Stan to grab two packets of sugar from the ledge behind him. 'Sugar in the Raw' the packets read, and I ripped their tops together. Light brown crystals fell into the coffee and melted slow. I didn't stir. And when I turned back to see if Stan was gone, he wasn't.

The phone rang. Red answered. "Blondie," she said, "it's Bruce." And as she passed the phone across the room she held the blonde in her eyes unable to say anything. Unable to look away. Unable to leave the room. ;t

"Bruce," said the blonde, beginning the monologue. "Bruce," but she couldn't; he interrupted. "Jane," he said, "you sound upset." She had been crying. When she heard his voice she started up again. 504 hours and nothing had changed between them. Jack came in and did some more push-ups, it was double or nothing. Red took the receiver from her hands and hung up the phone. They left for the desert. Without the rain things were okay.

89 M L .


Berkeley Fiction Review "You look awful," he said, "like you just got up." I think I twitched. "Had a late night, huh?" "Yes," I said, "very." "Me too," he said, "but I had to get up early." His lips were unsteady. "For racquetball," he said, then added a slight smile, "with Jean." I turned to grab another sugar. "She's quite good," he said, "Jean, you know. At racquetball." "Yes," I said. "I know." The minimum-wage teen behind the counter tapped his pencil against the register two, maybe three times, then opened his mouth. "Can I help you?" Black hair swam down his forehead over his left eye; he looked at Stan with his right. "Yeah," Stan said. "I'll have a cappuccino. And a latte with three quarters the cream. I started to leave, but Stan's hand caught my shoulder. "The latte is for Jean," he said. "She should be here any minute." The frother behind the teen hissed whipped cream. "Find us a table together," Stan said. "You don't mind, do you? I mean it's been such a long time and I know Jean would be so glad to see you. Really, you don't mind do you?" Shit, I thought, now I'll have to take my glasses off. "No," I said. "Good," said Stan, "It's been such a long time." I found a small table near the magazines and lifted a copy of Details to hide my face but Stan's step was just a minute behind. I took my sunglasses off while he sat and plunged quickly into something about his new marketing job at Saatchi and Saatchi, and how many of his clients had followed him from Morrison, Botto, and Smith, and how bringing new clients bonused his salary at Saatchi, and how he'd bought a new Range Rover just three months ago —or did he say leased?—and how he was planning a trip to Scotland with Jean—yes, Jean! — and how he and Jean were getting on so well together, and how glad he was that I didn't seem to mind. And speak of the Devil, there she was. Standing right behind Stan was Jean. The Devil frowned at me. 90

Venice "You look awful," she said. And I guess I did. I hadn't shaved or even taken a shower. But she, like Stan, smelled clean, and looked.. .well, she looked like Jean. Frowning, her face was still slight, fragile, yet keen. Her lips gentle and pouting, her nose straight with a slight turn up at the end, a knowing turn, she'd had it done. She did, however, look a bit slimmer than I remembered. Yes, slimmer. I tried to convince myself that somehow the slimming had made her less attractive. Like she'd lost something besides excess fat, something valuable. Maybe little soft bits of kindness, or discretion. But then I knew she'd never been all that kind or discreet before and I knew that considering her sharp wit, the curve of her body, and the blunt cut of her hair against her even brown skin, kindness and discretion never really mattered that much. She and Stan knew it too. Stan stood. "Sweetie," Jean said, "where's my latte?" Stan pressed his lips against her neck. "It's on the way, baby. I didn't want it to get cold." "Three quarters the cream?" "Just," he said. Finally, Jean smiled. "You're an angel," she said. "I'll be right back." Stan headed back toward the teen and Jean sat. Long moments pressed between Jean and I as each sip of my coffee became increasingly cool. The cup was almost done when Jean's frown returned. Her brows were not so deeply grained as before. "I still have some things of yours," she said. "Things?" >"A few books and things." "Oh," I said. "Don't you want to know what they are?" "The books?" I said. "The books and things." "Jean," I said, "oh Jean." I could see Stan coming up behind her. What the hell was he after? "Latte," he said. He handed Jean a smoking cup. A smile feigned Jean's face, and Stan sat, then leaned close to me. My cup was empty. 91


Berkeley Fiction Review "You look awful," he said, "like you just got up." I think I twitched. "Had a late night, huh?" "Yes," I said, "very." "Me too," he said, "but I had to get up early." His lips were unsteady. "For racquetball," he said, then added a slight smile, "with Jean." I turned to grab another sugar. "She's quite good," he said, "Jean, you know. At racquetball." "Yes," I said. "I know." The minimum-wage teen behind the counter tapped his pencil against the register two, maybe three times, then opened his mouth. "Can I help you?" Black hair swam down his forehead over his left eye; he looked at Stan with his right. "Yeah," Stan said. "I'll have a cappuccino. And a latte with three quarters the cream. I started to leave, but Stan's hand caught my shoulder. "The latte is for Jean," he said. "She should be here any minute." The frother behind the teen hissed whipped cream. "Find us a table together," Stan said. "You don't mind, do you? I mean it's been such a long time and I know Jean would be so glad to see you. Really, you don't mind do you?" Shit, I thought, now I'll have to take my glasses off. "No," I said. "Good," said Stan, "It's been such a long time." I found a small table near the magazines and lifted a copy of Details to hide my face but Stan's step was just a minute behind. I took my sunglasses off while he sat and plunged quickly into something about his new marketing job at Saatchi and Saatchi, and how many of his clients had followed him from Morrison, Botto, and Smith, and how bringing new clients bonused his salary at Saatchi, and how he'd bought a new Range Rover just three months ago —or did he say leased?—and how he was planning a trip to Scotland with Jean—yes, Jean! — and how he and Jean were getting on so well together, and how glad he was that I didn't seem to mind. And speak of the Devil, there she was. Standing right behind Stan was Jean. The Devil frowned at me. 90

Venice "You look awful," she said. And I guess I did. I hadn't shaved or even taken a shower. But she, like Stan, smelled clean, and looked.. .well, she looked like Jean. Frowning, her face was still slight, fragile, yet keen. Her lips gentle and pouting, her nose straight with a slight turn up at the end, a knowing turn, she'd had it done. She did, however, look a bit slimmer than I remembered. Yes, slimmer. I tried to convince myself that somehow the slimming had made her less attractive. Like she'd lost something besides excess fat, something valuable. Maybe little soft bits of kindness, or discretion. But then I knew she'd never been all that kind or discreet before and I knew that considering her sharp wit, the curve of her body, and the blunt cut of her hair against her even brown skin, kindness and discretion never really mattered that much. She and Stan knew it too. Stan stood. "Sweetie," Jean said, "where's my latte?" Stan pressed his lips against her neck. "It's on the way, baby. I didn't want it to get cold." "Three quarters the cream?" "Just," he said. Finally, Jean smiled. "You're an angel," she said. "I'll be right back." Stan headed back toward the teen and Jean sat. Long moments pressed between Jean and I as each sip of my coffee became increasingly cool. The cup was almost done when Jean's frown returned. Her brows were not so deeply grained as before. "I still have some things of yours," she said. "Things?" >"A few books and things." "Oh," I said. "Don't you want to know what they are?" "The books?" I said. "The books and things." "Jean," I said, "oh Jean." I could see Stan coming up behind her. What the hell was he after? "Latte," he said. He handed Jean a smoking cup. A smile feigned Jean's face, and Stan sat, then leaned close to me. My cup was empty. 91


Venice

Berkeley Fiction Review "Geez," he said. "You know we were talking before and I didn't even ask how things were going. I mean, what's going on with you? How's work? How's the single life? Are you seeing anyone yet?" "Yet?" I said. "Christ, Stan." Jean said. "Well," I said, "uh, work and dating..." Stan fixed his posture. "I mean, I haven't seen you in so long." "Well," I said, "Well...I just quit, and no." "What?" Jean said. Her nose was not so straight. "You quit?" she said. "You mean your job?" I shrugged. Stan just stared. "How could you quit?" Jean said. And Stan stared harder. I grabbed my glasses. "I have to go," I said. "You quit?" Jean said. She shook her head and sighed. "Well." She couldn't seem to help a slight laugh; it just sort of rolled out. "Well," she said, "you've absolutely lost your mind. I knew it was coming but who would've guessed so soon." "Jean," Stan said, "at least let him explain." Explain? I thought. "Explain?" Jean said. "Explain? What's to explain? As long as I've known him he's been in and out of these poor me, life is so unfair moods. Then, finally, he lands this great job, I mean a really great job, and now, now he tells me—" " — Us," Stan said. "—he just quit. Christ, Stan, it's like he's always trying to live out some dreary, melodramatic French film. So if you think there's something to explain, Stan, then why don't you do it. Explain to me how anyone—I mean anyone with good sense—could quit a job at the most successful advertising firm in North America." "It's not the most successful," I said. "I'm sure," Stan said, "he has a plan." "I have to go," I said. "I doubt it," Jean said to Stan, then she turned back on me. "I think you should see a psychiatrist." Stan rolled his eyes. "Now who's acting French and melodramatic." 92

"Jean thinks everyone should see a psychiatrist." I stood. "And they should," Jean said. "At least everyone who lives in LA. It should be a law. You know, like it is with auto insurance or something. If you live or work in LA or LA County you should be required to retain some sort of therapist. Not just for your own sake but the sake of other drivers on the road. You know, to make sure you don't irrevocably damage someone else's ego." She looked hard at me. "I'm sure you know what I mean," she said. "Don't you?" By now my sunglasses were back on. I stood. "Jean," I said, "I really do have to go." Jean raised her cup. "Then go," she said, "go." [3-] that night, after eleven, the phone in my condo rang six times. I didn't pick it up. Instead, I sat on the couch staring at the bookshelf beside me trying to figure out which books weren't there. When the phone rang again I stood, walked to the closet, butted my head against the door once, maybe more, then found my coat and keys and traveled the elevator to the ground. I was thirsty. I drove to the Crive, a bar I knew in Venice. "Scotch," Andy, the bartender said, and I nodded yes. Andy was queer, I thought, but wasn't sure. I didn't know him well. I started drinking at the Crive a few months back and Andy was always there. At first, I guessed he was deaf and mute but able to read lips. He never spoke and didn't respond to anyone who didn't look him directly in the eye. Dark, narrow eyes. He would stand over me at the bar, silent, and I would say, "Scotch please, straight up," and he would get it. I tipped him big and he came to me the moment I sat at the bar. He was a good friend. A few weeks ago Andy began to say "Scotch" when I sat at the bar and it unnerved me. But then, I thought, why should I hold speaking against him? After all, he did still force me to look him in the eye. I supposed Andy was queer because his motions were smooth and delicate, a stereotype, I know. Or maybe it was just intuition. That Saturday night, a man came in, leaned over the 93


Venice

Berkeley Fiction Review "Geez," he said. "You know we were talking before and I didn't even ask how things were going. I mean, what's going on with you? How's work? How's the single life? Are you seeing anyone yet?" "Yet?" I said. "Christ, Stan." Jean said. "Well," I said, "uh, work and dating..." Stan fixed his posture. "I mean, I haven't seen you in so long." "Well," I said, "Well...I just quit, and no." "What?" Jean said. Her nose was not so straight. "You quit?" she said. "You mean your job?" I shrugged. Stan just stared. "How could you quit?" Jean said. And Stan stared harder. I grabbed my glasses. "I have to go," I said. "You quit?" Jean said. She shook her head and sighed. "Well." She couldn't seem to help a slight laugh; it just sort of rolled out. "Well," she said, "you've absolutely lost your mind. I knew it was coming but who would've guessed so soon." "Jean," Stan said, "at least let him explain." Explain? I thought. "Explain?" Jean said. "Explain? What's to explain? As long as I've known him he's been in and out of these poor me, life is so unfair moods. Then, finally, he lands this great job, I mean a really great job, and now, now he tells me—" " — Us," Stan said. "—he just quit. Christ, Stan, it's like he's always trying to live out some dreary, melodramatic French film. So if you think there's something to explain, Stan, then why don't you do it. Explain to me how anyone—I mean anyone with good sense—could quit a job at the most successful advertising firm in North America." "It's not the most successful," I said. "I'm sure," Stan said, "he has a plan." "I have to go," I said. "I doubt it," Jean said to Stan, then she turned back on me. "I think you should see a psychiatrist." Stan rolled his eyes. "Now who's acting French and melodramatic." 92

"Jean thinks everyone should see a psychiatrist." I stood. "And they should," Jean said. "At least everyone who lives in LA. It should be a law. You know, like it is with auto insurance or something. If you live or work in LA or LA County you should be required to retain some sort of therapist. Not just for your own sake but the sake of other drivers on the road. You know, to make sure you don't irrevocably damage someone else's ego." She looked hard at me. "I'm sure you know what I mean," she said. "Don't you?" By now my sunglasses were back on. I stood. "Jean," I said, "I really do have to go." Jean raised her cup. "Then go," she said, "go." [3-] that night, after eleven, the phone in my condo rang six times. I didn't pick it up. Instead, I sat on the couch staring at the bookshelf beside me trying to figure out which books weren't there. When the phone rang again I stood, walked to the closet, butted my head against the door once, maybe more, then found my coat and keys and traveled the elevator to the ground. I was thirsty. I drove to the Crive, a bar I knew in Venice. "Scotch," Andy, the bartender said, and I nodded yes. Andy was queer, I thought, but wasn't sure. I didn't know him well. I started drinking at the Crive a few months back and Andy was always there. At first, I guessed he was deaf and mute but able to read lips. He never spoke and didn't respond to anyone who didn't look him directly in the eye. Dark, narrow eyes. He would stand over me at the bar, silent, and I would say, "Scotch please, straight up," and he would get it. I tipped him big and he came to me the moment I sat at the bar. He was a good friend. A few weeks ago Andy began to say "Scotch" when I sat at the bar and it unnerved me. But then, I thought, why should I hold speaking against him? After all, he did still force me to look him in the eye. I supposed Andy was queer because his motions were smooth and delicate, a stereotype, I know. Or maybe it was just intuition. That Saturday night, a man came in, leaned over the 93


Berkeley Fiction Review bar, and kissed Andy on the mouth. The man was tall. I watched them, drank late, and asked Andy for a bottle of Scotch to go. Andy rubbed his eyes, "Sure," he said, "Scotch." Two words. I carried the scotch to my car on Abbot Kinney and headed toward Pacific. The street was empty with the exception of my Fiat and a charcoal gray coupe, something foreign, that started up after me and stayed close behind. At the first stop light the coupe met my car on the right. The man inside stared a moment then smiled. I looked down at the radio, turned it on and changed the FM from Power 101.something to 104.5, EZ jazz. Green caught the corner of my eye and I fed the Fiat gas. Just ahead was an all-night Tex-Mex to-go stand. Blue neon pulsed the word TACO' and I turned into the lot; the coupe pulled in beside me. "Sorry," the man said. Neon crackled. "I thought you were someone I knew." I barely caught the outline of his face. "Sorry,'* he said. "Sure." The man pulled out of the lot and so did I. It was much too late to eat tacos. When I reached Pacific I turned right and realized the coupe still followed me. My fingers and thumb thumped the steering wheel as I idled my car under a street lamp. The coupe stopped close behind me and the man got out. A tall, curly-haired man with a wide, handsome face. He looked of mixed race, Black and something else, very dark. I rolled my window down. "You have nice eyes," he said. His voice was deep. "Thanks," I said. His bay hand hit his belt, his eyes were gray. I cleared my throat. "You," I said, "do too." His name was Nick. He told me he lived alone. I closed my eyes. 94

Venice What the hell am I doing? I thought. But I followed him anyway. The red lights at the back of his car pulled me forward, a rear window light told me when to stop. And when the yellow light blinked on the driver side I turned left. He lived in a loft. We were still in Venice. "Yes," he said, "you do have nice eyes. Large and clear." The loft was lit low. The man, a couch, a tall stereo and TV, an iron bed and several boards of stretched canvas were all I could make of the space. He, Nick, looked early thirties, a few years older than me. Two wide scars scratched between his lower lip and chin, and his hands were colored with dry paint. We sat on the bed. I wanted to move near the canvas and oils but didn't say. Nick stood. "I'm going to make some coffee," he said. "Want something?" I pulled the scotch from my jacket and set the jacket on the bed. "Just a glass," I said. He nodded OK, then walked toward the darker part of the room. His steps were heavy; and when he walked back, I remembered him. "Weren't you afraid?" I said. He handed me a glass. "Afraid?" "To kiss Andy at the bar." "No," he said. I poured some scotch into the glass. "To follow me?" I said. "Afraid of you?" he said, half his scar curved up. I poured more scotch. "Just afraid," I said, "just afraid." Nick swallowed his coffee, sat, and moved close. He took the glass from my hand and set it on the floor. His hands roamed over my face, my chest, my thighs; his eyes were so gray. I leaned forward. "You have done this before?" he said. His eyes were so gray. "Crive's not a queer bar," I said. He pushed me down on the bed. "No," he said, "it's not."

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Berkeley Fiction Review bar, and kissed Andy on the mouth. The man was tall. I watched them, drank late, and asked Andy for a bottle of Scotch to go. Andy rubbed his eyes, "Sure," he said, "Scotch." Two words. I carried the scotch to my car on Abbot Kinney and headed toward Pacific. The street was empty with the exception of my Fiat and a charcoal gray coupe, something foreign, that started up after me and stayed close behind. At the first stop light the coupe met my car on the right. The man inside stared a moment then smiled. I looked down at the radio, turned it on and changed the FM from Power 101.something to 104.5, EZ jazz. Green caught the corner of my eye and I fed the Fiat gas. Just ahead was an all-night Tex-Mex to-go stand. Blue neon pulsed the word TACO' and I turned into the lot; the coupe pulled in beside me. "Sorry," the man said. Neon crackled. "I thought you were someone I knew." I barely caught the outline of his face. "Sorry,'* he said. "Sure." The man pulled out of the lot and so did I. It was much too late to eat tacos. When I reached Pacific I turned right and realized the coupe still followed me. My fingers and thumb thumped the steering wheel as I idled my car under a street lamp. The coupe stopped close behind me and the man got out. A tall, curly-haired man with a wide, handsome face. He looked of mixed race, Black and something else, very dark. I rolled my window down. "You have nice eyes," he said. His voice was deep. "Thanks," I said. His bay hand hit his belt, his eyes were gray. I cleared my throat. "You," I said, "do too." His name was Nick. He told me he lived alone. I closed my eyes. 94

Venice What the hell am I doing? I thought. But I followed him anyway. The red lights at the back of his car pulled me forward, a rear window light told me when to stop. And when the yellow light blinked on the driver side I turned left. He lived in a loft. We were still in Venice. "Yes," he said, "you do have nice eyes. Large and clear." The loft was lit low. The man, a couch, a tall stereo and TV, an iron bed and several boards of stretched canvas were all I could make of the space. He, Nick, looked early thirties, a few years older than me. Two wide scars scratched between his lower lip and chin, and his hands were colored with dry paint. We sat on the bed. I wanted to move near the canvas and oils but didn't say. Nick stood. "I'm going to make some coffee," he said. "Want something?" I pulled the scotch from my jacket and set the jacket on the bed. "Just a glass," I said. He nodded OK, then walked toward the darker part of the room. His steps were heavy; and when he walked back, I remembered him. "Weren't you afraid?" I said. He handed me a glass. "Afraid?" "To kiss Andy at the bar." "No," he said. I poured some scotch into the glass. "To follow me?" I said. "Afraid of you?" he said, half his scar curved up. I poured more scotch. "Just afraid," I said, "just afraid." Nick swallowed his coffee, sat, and moved close. He took the glass from my hand and set it on the floor. His hands roamed over my face, my chest, my thighs; his eyes were so gray. I leaned forward. "You have done this before?" he said. His eyes were so gray. "Crive's not a queer bar," I said. He pushed me down on the bed. "No," he said, "it's not."

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Berkeley Fiction Review [4-] on Sunday, sunlight woke me, naked on stained sheets I didn't recognize. My head ached, my bones ached, my muscles were sore, and I was alone. Water ran loud behind the door at the far end of the room and my clothes lay on the floor next to an empty scotch bottle. Shit. I dressed quick and sprinted out to my car. Sunglasses on, Westwood was not far. My condo was quiet, I slammed the door. There was a sharp pain, a loud scream, I think mine, and I stumbled to the bathroom. I sat on the floor awhile then reached up and turned the faucet beside me; I needed a bath. The water steamed and the vent above my head echoed Susan. Susan's my upstairs neighbor. Her voice was high, I think she was on the phone. "You're so fucking cruel!" she said. "No...No," she said, "I said no." She began to cry. "I hate you, Matt," she said. "I fucking hate you!"

Venice forwarded them to your E-mail." He stared at me kind of strange. "Thanks," I said and hurried to my office. I pulled the chair from my desk, sat, then lowered my head. And when I looked up my boss was crossing the hall. Shit. "A little late," she said, her face was tight. I lost my breath. "Anyway," she said, "I need the story boards for the Metro-Blue account by seven. I'm having dinner with Anderson. You should be there." I didn't move. Her stare narrowed. "You should be there," she said. Finally my breath returned, but my mind was still stuck; it was back in Venice. I clenched my hands. "OK," I said. "I will."

Susan faded as I lay in the tub. The night before soaked through, out, and around me. My head ached and I wondered again and again what was on that man's canvas. Why did Andy kiss him? Why did he kiss me? What books were missing from my shelf? I swore to God I would never go the Crive again, and then I remembered the man's hands, the paint, the oil, the scars, and I looked down into the water. My fingers had pruned. [5-] on Monday morning, the phone in my condo rang loud and, instinctively, I rolled across the bed, lifted my head then stopped. It was almost nine. Shit. I got up, rinsed my face, stripped the plastic off a starched white shirt, found slacks, belt, socks, shoes, tie, jacket and styling gel and panicked the 10 freeway East, downtown. I parked under the First Interstate Bank building, then took the elevator up. "You've got six messages," Aiden, my young temp assistant said. "I 96

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Berkeley Fiction Review [4-] on Sunday, sunlight woke me, naked on stained sheets I didn't recognize. My head ached, my bones ached, my muscles were sore, and I was alone. Water ran loud behind the door at the far end of the room and my clothes lay on the floor next to an empty scotch bottle. Shit. I dressed quick and sprinted out to my car. Sunglasses on, Westwood was not far. My condo was quiet, I slammed the door. There was a sharp pain, a loud scream, I think mine, and I stumbled to the bathroom. I sat on the floor awhile then reached up and turned the faucet beside me; I needed a bath. The water steamed and the vent above my head echoed Susan. Susan's my upstairs neighbor. Her voice was high, I think she was on the phone. "You're so fucking cruel!" she said. "No...No," she said, "I said no." She began to cry. "I hate you, Matt," she said. "I fucking hate you!"

Venice forwarded them to your E-mail." He stared at me kind of strange. "Thanks," I said and hurried to my office. I pulled the chair from my desk, sat, then lowered my head. And when I looked up my boss was crossing the hall. Shit. "A little late," she said, her face was tight. I lost my breath. "Anyway," she said, "I need the story boards for the Metro-Blue account by seven. I'm having dinner with Anderson. You should be there." I didn't move. Her stare narrowed. "You should be there," she said. Finally my breath returned, but my mind was still stuck; it was back in Venice. I clenched my hands. "OK," I said. "I will."

Susan faded as I lay in the tub. The night before soaked through, out, and around me. My head ached and I wondered again and again what was on that man's canvas. Why did Andy kiss him? Why did he kiss me? What books were missing from my shelf? I swore to God I would never go the Crive again, and then I remembered the man's hands, the paint, the oil, the scars, and I looked down into the water. My fingers had pruned. [5-] on Monday morning, the phone in my condo rang loud and, instinctively, I rolled across the bed, lifted my head then stopped. It was almost nine. Shit. I got up, rinsed my face, stripped the plastic off a starched white shirt, found slacks, belt, socks, shoes, tie, jacket and styling gel and panicked the 10 freeway East, downtown. I parked under the First Interstate Bank building, then took the elevator up. "You've got six messages," Aiden, my young temp assistant said. "I 96

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Berkeley1 Fiction Review

Charles Ellik


Berkeley1 Fiction Review

Charles Ellik


Berkeley Fiction Review

CharlesEllik


Berkeley Fiction Review

CharlesEllik


Berkeley Fiction Review

Charles Ellik


Berkeley Fiction Review

Charles Ellik


^

Before

T h e

C o c k

C r o w s

Alvaro Mutis

T

he houses of the city began to appear. They kept on bickering, now with long pauses that recharged each one's reserves of wrath. When the Maestro lost patience and ordered that the quarrel cease, they all lapsed into a timid silence inside the vehicle. "Enough!" he shouted with a sudden intensity that left no room for retort or disobedience. They had been arguing since they'd boarded the ramshackle bus with hard wooden benches that had picked them up by the shores of the lake. It had something to do with the hotel bill from the last time they'd preached around here. When the bus had stopped for them, the one who seemed to be their leader, whose eyes gave off a feverish inner tension moderated by a saccharine benevolence, had signaled them to end the dispute, obviously to prevent the other passengers from overhearing. But the mulishness of the oldest of the twelve, who was dressed like a fisherman of the port, and the rabid, inexhaustible volubility of the keeper of the funds, who wore over his grimy clothing a no less filthy raincoat buttoned up to the neck, was more telling than the explosive authority of the leader, who glanced nervously at the rest of the passengers, trying to belittle the importance of the matter with a smile. With an apprehensive air they alighted at the terminal, situated on one flank of the market. 104

Before the Cock Crows

It wasn't the first time they were visiting the town. They enjoyed a certain popularity among the people in the market and on the docks, as well as with the women in the laundry district. They set off for that part of town in silence, a youth clothed like a mechanic, who had recently joined them, in the lead. He was related to the owners of an inn that housed one of the clothes-washing fixtures common in the neighborhood and the city in general. A mob of followers began to accumulate around the group and a few, the most daring, encircled the Maestro, touching his clothing with fervor and respect, which didn't stop them from occasionally grabbing at a shred of his tattered corduroy jacket or one of his pants pockets. One tried to snatch from around his neck the greasy silk handkerchief he wore by way of a tie, which bore blue and white designs of all styles and sizes of yachts. The Maestro fended them off clumsily while he reprimanded the one in the raincoat: "I don't reproach you," he was saying, "for your venality, nor for the sordid lies by which you would conceal the fruit of your charlatanry. You well know that the alms we collect belong to all of us equally, and that we've confided them to you precisely because we know how much you esteem money, and how well you turn a profit. "Do you think I don't know where a large part of our common funds goes? If I liked, I could tell you ways to get a much better yield when you surreptitiously invest the proceeds from our preaching. But it is written that you shall be the one to bear the weight of infamy, and even if I wished to, I could do nothing to free you from it. You are going, as am I, directly to your destiny, and it would be easier to hold back a rushing stream with your hands than to deflect the course of a life, or modify its end." The other listened, half-sardonic, half-cowed, accustomed to the style of the Maestro's speech, sprinkled with rather unsophisticated images and murky references that often came out as hopeless cliches. The Treasurer had a mute dislike for the man, never totally manifest, which he usually took out on him in the form of backbiting and deception. It had all started the day the Maestro had surprised him attempting to lift the skirt of one of the girls at the inn, and while she had not been exercising marked resistance, at the Maestro's appearance she had feigned an exaggerated horror. 105


^

Before

T h e

C o c k

C r o w s

Alvaro Mutis

T

he houses of the city began to appear. They kept on bickering, now with long pauses that recharged each one's reserves of wrath. When the Maestro lost patience and ordered that the quarrel cease, they all lapsed into a timid silence inside the vehicle. "Enough!" he shouted with a sudden intensity that left no room for retort or disobedience. They had been arguing since they'd boarded the ramshackle bus with hard wooden benches that had picked them up by the shores of the lake. It had something to do with the hotel bill from the last time they'd preached around here. When the bus had stopped for them, the one who seemed to be their leader, whose eyes gave off a feverish inner tension moderated by a saccharine benevolence, had signaled them to end the dispute, obviously to prevent the other passengers from overhearing. But the mulishness of the oldest of the twelve, who was dressed like a fisherman of the port, and the rabid, inexhaustible volubility of the keeper of the funds, who wore over his grimy clothing a no less filthy raincoat buttoned up to the neck, was more telling than the explosive authority of the leader, who glanced nervously at the rest of the passengers, trying to belittle the importance of the matter with a smile. With an apprehensive air they alighted at the terminal, situated on one flank of the market. 104

Before the Cock Crows

It wasn't the first time they were visiting the town. They enjoyed a certain popularity among the people in the market and on the docks, as well as with the women in the laundry district. They set off for that part of town in silence, a youth clothed like a mechanic, who had recently joined them, in the lead. He was related to the owners of an inn that housed one of the clothes-washing fixtures common in the neighborhood and the city in general. A mob of followers began to accumulate around the group and a few, the most daring, encircled the Maestro, touching his clothing with fervor and respect, which didn't stop them from occasionally grabbing at a shred of his tattered corduroy jacket or one of his pants pockets. One tried to snatch from around his neck the greasy silk handkerchief he wore by way of a tie, which bore blue and white designs of all styles and sizes of yachts. The Maestro fended them off clumsily while he reprimanded the one in the raincoat: "I don't reproach you," he was saying, "for your venality, nor for the sordid lies by which you would conceal the fruit of your charlatanry. You well know that the alms we collect belong to all of us equally, and that we've confided them to you precisely because we know how much you esteem money, and how well you turn a profit. "Do you think I don't know where a large part of our common funds goes? If I liked, I could tell you ways to get a much better yield when you surreptitiously invest the proceeds from our preaching. But it is written that you shall be the one to bear the weight of infamy, and even if I wished to, I could do nothing to free you from it. You are going, as am I, directly to your destiny, and it would be easier to hold back a rushing stream with your hands than to deflect the course of a life, or modify its end." The other listened, half-sardonic, half-cowed, accustomed to the style of the Maestro's speech, sprinkled with rather unsophisticated images and murky references that often came out as hopeless cliches. The Treasurer had a mute dislike for the man, never totally manifest, which he usually took out on him in the form of backbiting and deception. It had all started the day the Maestro had surprised him attempting to lift the skirt of one of the girls at the inn, and while she had not been exercising marked resistance, at the Maestro's appearance she had feigned an exaggerated horror. 105


Berkeley Fiction Review When they arrived at the run-down hotel, a few of the disciples dispersed the beggars, invalids and fanatics following them. They went upstairs and were received with shows of enthusiastic affection on the part of the women, one of whom displayed a rotund and incommodious belly which aroused astonishment in the funds-keeper and elicited a unique grimace from the Maestro, a blend of nausea and pained reproach. Pregnant women exasperated him, throwing him into a state of irritability and confusion hard for even his closest disciples to bear. They divided up the only three vacant rooms remaining, and while they bathed and put on clean clothes, the oldest went up to the Maestro's room, on the roof where the laundry was dried. He wanted to report certain rumors he'd heard that had a bearing on their plans to preach here. "A lot has changed since the last time we were here, sir. They've chosen a representative of the shipping companies as port deputy, and the police have been cracking down on extremist groups. The jails are full and the unions have been taken over by leaders bought out by the company bosses; they've got hired guns terrorizing the workers' neighborhoods and the docks. Every meeting is watched and no demonstrations are allowed. Even so, the stevedores and customs workers are getting ready to strike and are taking up arms. I think this time we should pass through unnoticed, just raise a few funds among friends we trust, and once we get together enough to travel, go on our way without preaching or stirring up the people; they're already worked up enough with all the agitating from different sides." His timing couldn't have been worse, nor his advice meet with a reaction further from the one the old fisherman sought. Contained irritation accumulated from the quarrel in the bus, the fatigue of the trip and the girl's unexpected pregnancy, exploded violently. "That oafish outlook is worthy of you and your dotardly childishness. You'll never learn to tell when a situation is ripe to be exploited in favor of ourselves and our faith. You, along with the rest of those cowards who follow me out of sheer idleness, think our mission consists of preaching to simpletons, working miracles before the incautious, living off their stingy alms, taking advantage of therr hospitality and eating at their tables. A white bed, a good dinner and easy women, that's your entire ambition. Pigs, all of you, who go on wallowing in the filth you were born in." He went on, now shouting: "When by express and divine disposition the opportunity presents itself for us to 106

Before the Cock Crows throw ourselves to the sacrifice and demonstrate with our blood the fertile truth of our doctrine, you scurry off like terrified rats. Now, fool, you'll see the harvest we shall reap today! We must take advantage of the disorder reigning in the city! It is up to us to turn it to the good of our cause! We shall cast ourselves into the struggle and light a fire that vvill burn for centuries and centuries! The moment we've been waiting for has come! We are ripe to immolate ourselves and perpetuate the marvel of our example! Arise, you layabout! Arise and call the others. We're going to the streets. We'll get a crowd together and preach on the docks at the hour when the port is busiest!" Only years and familiarity with the sea made possible those frequent intuitions such as the one the old man experienced now. An instant of the future, with scenes of the end precipitated by the leader's arbitrary mood, appeared to him in total clarity. He sensed that there was no remedy now, that he must leave events to their elemental forces and try to salvage the remnant of life that the aged tend to pursue with such covetousness, certain of their destiny. Without a word in answer, the old fisherman helped the other to dress, and as he was knotting the scarf with the yachts around the Maestro's neck, he looked his leader in the face and read the tragedy that was brewing. They went downstairs. The rest were already waiting at the door. The youngest in their group was replying to a stranger who had approached the group to ask the price of rooms. The fisherman and the one with the scarf broke in brusquely, cutting off the conversation. "We are going to the port," exclaimed the Maestro. "Those who hunger and thirst for justice await us!" The stranger saw them move on and slipped away so quickly that by the time someone came to help him he was already out of sight. A shiver ran down the old man's back. The group set off, followed at a distance by the man in the raincoat, who had stayed behind settling up accounts with the women at the hotel and was trying to catch up with a firm, rapid stride that seemed to require no muscular effort. The group was made up of people of diverse origins and conditions. There were two workers from the canning factory by the lake, who had left their work in the middle of the peach crop just when the overtime pay was reaching gratifying sums. A train conductor who had let them ride without fare when there were only five of them, and 107


Berkeley Fiction Review When they arrived at the run-down hotel, a few of the disciples dispersed the beggars, invalids and fanatics following them. They went upstairs and were received with shows of enthusiastic affection on the part of the women, one of whom displayed a rotund and incommodious belly which aroused astonishment in the funds-keeper and elicited a unique grimace from the Maestro, a blend of nausea and pained reproach. Pregnant women exasperated him, throwing him into a state of irritability and confusion hard for even his closest disciples to bear. They divided up the only three vacant rooms remaining, and while they bathed and put on clean clothes, the oldest went up to the Maestro's room, on the roof where the laundry was dried. He wanted to report certain rumors he'd heard that had a bearing on their plans to preach here. "A lot has changed since the last time we were here, sir. They've chosen a representative of the shipping companies as port deputy, and the police have been cracking down on extremist groups. The jails are full and the unions have been taken over by leaders bought out by the company bosses; they've got hired guns terrorizing the workers' neighborhoods and the docks. Every meeting is watched and no demonstrations are allowed. Even so, the stevedores and customs workers are getting ready to strike and are taking up arms. I think this time we should pass through unnoticed, just raise a few funds among friends we trust, and once we get together enough to travel, go on our way without preaching or stirring up the people; they're already worked up enough with all the agitating from different sides." His timing couldn't have been worse, nor his advice meet with a reaction further from the one the old fisherman sought. Contained irritation accumulated from the quarrel in the bus, the fatigue of the trip and the girl's unexpected pregnancy, exploded violently. "That oafish outlook is worthy of you and your dotardly childishness. You'll never learn to tell when a situation is ripe to be exploited in favor of ourselves and our faith. You, along with the rest of those cowards who follow me out of sheer idleness, think our mission consists of preaching to simpletons, working miracles before the incautious, living off their stingy alms, taking advantage of therr hospitality and eating at their tables. A white bed, a good dinner and easy women, that's your entire ambition. Pigs, all of you, who go on wallowing in the filth you were born in." He went on, now shouting: "When by express and divine disposition the opportunity presents itself for us to 106

Before the Cock Crows throw ourselves to the sacrifice and demonstrate with our blood the fertile truth of our doctrine, you scurry off like terrified rats. Now, fool, you'll see the harvest we shall reap today! We must take advantage of the disorder reigning in the city! It is up to us to turn it to the good of our cause! We shall cast ourselves into the struggle and light a fire that vvill burn for centuries and centuries! The moment we've been waiting for has come! We are ripe to immolate ourselves and perpetuate the marvel of our example! Arise, you layabout! Arise and call the others. We're going to the streets. We'll get a crowd together and preach on the docks at the hour when the port is busiest!" Only years and familiarity with the sea made possible those frequent intuitions such as the one the old man experienced now. An instant of the future, with scenes of the end precipitated by the leader's arbitrary mood, appeared to him in total clarity. He sensed that there was no remedy now, that he must leave events to their elemental forces and try to salvage the remnant of life that the aged tend to pursue with such covetousness, certain of their destiny. Without a word in answer, the old fisherman helped the other to dress, and as he was knotting the scarf with the yachts around the Maestro's neck, he looked his leader in the face and read the tragedy that was brewing. They went downstairs. The rest were already waiting at the door. The youngest in their group was replying to a stranger who had approached the group to ask the price of rooms. The fisherman and the one with the scarf broke in brusquely, cutting off the conversation. "We are going to the port," exclaimed the Maestro. "Those who hunger and thirst for justice await us!" The stranger saw them move on and slipped away so quickly that by the time someone came to help him he was already out of sight. A shiver ran down the old man's back. The group set off, followed at a distance by the man in the raincoat, who had stayed behind settling up accounts with the women at the hotel and was trying to catch up with a firm, rapid stride that seemed to require no muscular effort. The group was made up of people of diverse origins and conditions. There were two workers from the canning factory by the lake, who had left their work in the middle of the peach crop just when the overtime pay was reaching gratifying sums. A train conductor who had let them ride without fare when there were only five of them, and 107


Before the Cock Crows

Berkeley Fiction Review

crew of stevedores and crane operators oversaw the delicate task with mounting tension. The bosses announced that every piece broken would be proportionately deducted from the day's pay. The group observed the process of unloading the heavy cartons which, as they journeyed through the air guided with a pretty dexterity by the giant cranes, gave off a fine dust of straw and white sand that blinded the eyes and made them water constandy. A heady, salty aroma of shellfish and seafood mingled with the fresh pine scent of the boxes and the smoke from the chimneys, which evoked the low, gray skies of the industrial city to the north. To enable them to do the job in a single shift, the women had brought their baskets with the evening meal, but when they saw the Maestro and his disciples, they gathered around reverently to listen. A stranger or two and some guardias also drew near to hear. • What the Maestro said had no particular virulence, nor was his delivery as inflammatory as at other times. But the ground had been tilled for the seed of violence, and now the heated attention of the cargo handlers and machinists mingled with the growing excitement of the women already gathered. By the time the disciples realized something unusual was happening, the cranes had been stopped for some time and the siren had sounded for the brief supper break. The old fisherman and the traveler's agent were the first to realize that something strange was going on. The police and strangers who had been standing near the faithful were nowhere to be seen. In the entire area of the silent, immobilized port, the only sound was the man's voice rising like a tall fountain toward the gilded afternoon sun. Suddenly a shriek, a cross between a plaint and a stifled scream, Was heard above the Maestro's voice, and everyone turned to stare at the spot the lament was coming from. A huge box had been left suspended in the midst of its travel and was rocking in the heights in the crisp air of dusk. The ropes moaned under the weight of the crystal and a small cloud of straw issued from the pine boards and fluttered off, playing on the breeze and moving away toward the sea. The Maestro stopped preaching and stood gazing at the vast expanse of ocean that buried itself in the horizon with the pulsing rhythm of boundless freedom. All at once the granadero squads burst in, the sirens of the port police howled the signal to close off the street and the first tear gas canister exploded. When they awoke from their instant of reverie, cud-

ended up getting off with them after a long three-day ride. During the journey, the Maestro had launched into his preaching in the coaches, causing such an uproar on the train that the conductor had to stop in the middle of the trip on two occasions to try to calm the hysterical shrieks of the women and the noisy confessions of remorse-stricken sinners who had begun shouting out lists of their offenses. There, too, they were joined by an itinerant money-broker who trafficked in currency at the border, and a young salesman of dried birds, decorations for the living rooms of the upper bourgeoisie and the waiting rooms of swanky brothels. Later came a painter of signs and advertisements whom the illuminated ringleader had rebuked in the midst of his work for furthering the abominable sin of advertising. The man had left his paint boxes and brushes on the scaffold where he had been painting a gigantic, glossy woman's armpit in testimony to the excellence of a potent depilatory. For several years his family had thought him dead, and this led to the circulation of the rumor that he had been resurrected at the hands of the Maestro. Two young fishermen and the mechanic who repaired boat motors, the youngest of all, had come after the old fisherman. The two remaining were, it seemed, relatives of the leader, woodworkers by trade, who distinguished themselves by their circumspection and timidity. The relatives gave the impression that they knew something, and feared that if they engaged in much conversation, they would say it. The one in the raincoat had helped them rent a loudspeaker system and, on seeing the results of the sermons, resolved to join them, partly because of a certain secret attraction for the role that awaited him in the whole story, and also to evade some debts he had contracted in the city after a few luckless attempts at variou$ business ventures. Despite the diversity of their origins, professions and reasons for following the man, all had absolute faith in his thaumaturgic power and the righteousness of his doctrine. In spite of the Maestro's frightening changes of mood, the serene, wholesome sense of justice and brotherhood which guided his actions inspired in the men an unshakable faith. When they arrived at the port, two huge boats which had docked at noon with a cargo of crystal were being unloaded. They had come from faroff countries of ice and snow and were painted all white except for the chimneys, which bore yellow and blue rhomboids. The

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crew of stevedores and crane operators oversaw the delicate task with mounting tension. The bosses announced that every piece broken would be proportionately deducted from the day's pay. The group observed the process of unloading the heavy cartons which, as they journeyed through the air guided with a pretty dexterity by the giant cranes, gave off a fine dust of straw and white sand that blinded the eyes and made them water constandy. A heady, salty aroma of shellfish and seafood mingled with the fresh pine scent of the boxes and the smoke from the chimneys, which evoked the low, gray skies of the industrial city to the north. To enable them to do the job in a single shift, the women had brought their baskets with the evening meal, but when they saw the Maestro and his disciples, they gathered around reverently to listen. A stranger or two and some guardias also drew near to hear. • What the Maestro said had no particular virulence, nor was his delivery as inflammatory as at other times. But the ground had been tilled for the seed of violence, and now the heated attention of the cargo handlers and machinists mingled with the growing excitement of the women already gathered. By the time the disciples realized something unusual was happening, the cranes had been stopped for some time and the siren had sounded for the brief supper break. The old fisherman and the traveler's agent were the first to realize that something strange was going on. The police and strangers who had been standing near the faithful were nowhere to be seen. In the entire area of the silent, immobilized port, the only sound was the man's voice rising like a tall fountain toward the gilded afternoon sun. Suddenly a shriek, a cross between a plaint and a stifled scream, Was heard above the Maestro's voice, and everyone turned to stare at the spot the lament was coming from. A huge box had been left suspended in the midst of its travel and was rocking in the heights in the crisp air of dusk. The ropes moaned under the weight of the crystal and a small cloud of straw issued from the pine boards and fluttered off, playing on the breeze and moving away toward the sea. The Maestro stopped preaching and stood gazing at the vast expanse of ocean that buried itself in the horizon with the pulsing rhythm of boundless freedom. All at once the granadero squads burst in, the sirens of the port police howled the signal to close off the street and the first tear gas canister exploded. When they awoke from their instant of reverie, cud-

ended up getting off with them after a long three-day ride. During the journey, the Maestro had launched into his preaching in the coaches, causing such an uproar on the train that the conductor had to stop in the middle of the trip on two occasions to try to calm the hysterical shrieks of the women and the noisy confessions of remorse-stricken sinners who had begun shouting out lists of their offenses. There, too, they were joined by an itinerant money-broker who trafficked in currency at the border, and a young salesman of dried birds, decorations for the living rooms of the upper bourgeoisie and the waiting rooms of swanky brothels. Later came a painter of signs and advertisements whom the illuminated ringleader had rebuked in the midst of his work for furthering the abominable sin of advertising. The man had left his paint boxes and brushes on the scaffold where he had been painting a gigantic, glossy woman's armpit in testimony to the excellence of a potent depilatory. For several years his family had thought him dead, and this led to the circulation of the rumor that he had been resurrected at the hands of the Maestro. Two young fishermen and the mechanic who repaired boat motors, the youngest of all, had come after the old fisherman. The two remaining were, it seemed, relatives of the leader, woodworkers by trade, who distinguished themselves by their circumspection and timidity. The relatives gave the impression that they knew something, and feared that if they engaged in much conversation, they would say it. The one in the raincoat had helped them rent a loudspeaker system and, on seeing the results of the sermons, resolved to join them, partly because of a certain secret attraction for the role that awaited him in the whole story, and also to evade some debts he had contracted in the city after a few luckless attempts at variou$ business ventures. Despite the diversity of their origins, professions and reasons for following the man, all had absolute faith in his thaumaturgic power and the righteousness of his doctrine. In spite of the Maestro's frightening changes of mood, the serene, wholesome sense of justice and brotherhood which guided his actions inspired in the men an unshakable faith. When they arrived at the port, two huge boats which had docked at noon with a cargo of crystal were being unloaded. They had come from faroff countries of ice and snow and were painted all white except for the chimneys, which bore yellow and blue rhomboids. The

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Before the Cock Crows

gels were raining merciless blows on men and on women as they rolled on the ground spitting blood and weeping in terror. The police were content to disperse the curious and unleash all their fury on the nucleus of disciples, especially, of course, on their leader. With kicks and cudgel blows they drove them into a patrol wagon that sped off through streets and squares with the siren wailing all the way to the Police Station, which had been carefully chosen for the occasion, located in a residential district at a remove from the brawling center of the city. The people who ended up here were one or another misguided son who had had too much to drink and perhaps a maid who had let her man into the master's house for some petty theft, and so she could sleep with him until dawn. It was one of the neighborhoods of preference for the upper echelons of banking, business and government administration: people with seaside vacations, golf on Saturdays and membership in clubs and benevolent brotherhoods. The plan was to charge the Maestro and his friends with all the responsibility for the unrest that had been afoot for several days. This would justify, as well, certain repressive measures that would be highly effective in quashing revolt and arresting thoughts of violence on the part of the dock workers or any of their compatriots in the factories and unions who might try to join them. The police chief had been replaced that day by a new one with orders to that effect. A ready, effective staff was advising him. The paddywagon passed through a wide gate and came to a stop at the end of the building's interior courtyard. The first to limp out was the former train conductor, one eye closed from a cudgel blow. The others emerged in a silence broken by a muted lowing as of animals run to ground, that a human being makes when in the jaws of fear and suffering in the flesh. They filed into the interrogation room. Standing there in the raw lamplight, they made the strangest, most pitiable sight imaginable. They were trembling from the pain of blows and wounds, the humiliating anguish of finding themselves under police control had worked its implacable terror, nullifying their most basic reasoning power. One by one they gave their personal data until it came to the Maestro, who was bleeding from a wound in the forehead and whose paralyzed left arm had a grotesque twist from fractures in several places caused by blows from booted feet. He said-his name and age, and when

the police chief—a smiling, obese little man with a cheery look and meticulous manner thinly overlaid on a cruel, cold interior—asked for his address, he replied: "I live nowhere. My mission is to carry truth by the roadways and to sow it everywhere men suffer injustice and grief." "Let's do without the sermons," replied the official, "and come to the point." "Whoever loses time with me shall gain it in the hereafter," answered the Maestro without batting an eye. "Uh-huh, okay. Let's see. You're accused of the crimes of subverting public order, conspiracy against the security of the state, brawling, unlawful assembly, illegal practice of medicine, fraud and procuring. We have on record witnesses' declarations to prove each of these imputations. Do you have anything to state?" "He who weaves a lie, weaves his own shroud and loses his soul," the accused replied with the same serenity. "If you have anything to state counter to the accusations made against you by the Public Ministry, say it, please, and stop spouting parables, or metaphors, or whatever. This is no time for that—your life is at stake here, and perhaps the lives of your companions," the police chief warned him, impatient. "If I have done anything wrong, I alone am guilty. If they followed me it was due to my counsel and the renown of my works, and therefore they are innocent. Do not sully your justice with useless sacrifices." "I'll make the decisions here, not you. Lock them up!" ordered the police chief. The guardias took them out to the courtyard. They walked through the warm, clear night air, stirred by the passage of serene and somnolent clouds journeying toward the sea in search of morning in other lands. All of them sensed the spellbinding promise of impossible happiness that hovers above huge open spaces, and the vanity and smallness of their own affairs. The old fisherman straggled behind, contemplating the moon, and suddenly felt surging up in his blood, now soured by the pain and jeering, the drunken liberty of the sea on which he had lived for so many years of voyages, catches, and pursuit of the sperm whales and banks of tuna whose wild nomadic urges had ruled his sailor's life. A kick in the kidneys brought him back to the present. "Inside, Grandpa, inside—this is no time for staring at the sky!" A

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Before the Cock Crows

gels were raining merciless blows on men and on women as they rolled on the ground spitting blood and weeping in terror. The police were content to disperse the curious and unleash all their fury on the nucleus of disciples, especially, of course, on their leader. With kicks and cudgel blows they drove them into a patrol wagon that sped off through streets and squares with the siren wailing all the way to the Police Station, which had been carefully chosen for the occasion, located in a residential district at a remove from the brawling center of the city. The people who ended up here were one or another misguided son who had had too much to drink and perhaps a maid who had let her man into the master's house for some petty theft, and so she could sleep with him until dawn. It was one of the neighborhoods of preference for the upper echelons of banking, business and government administration: people with seaside vacations, golf on Saturdays and membership in clubs and benevolent brotherhoods. The plan was to charge the Maestro and his friends with all the responsibility for the unrest that had been afoot for several days. This would justify, as well, certain repressive measures that would be highly effective in quashing revolt and arresting thoughts of violence on the part of the dock workers or any of their compatriots in the factories and unions who might try to join them. The police chief had been replaced that day by a new one with orders to that effect. A ready, effective staff was advising him. The paddywagon passed through a wide gate and came to a stop at the end of the building's interior courtyard. The first to limp out was the former train conductor, one eye closed from a cudgel blow. The others emerged in a silence broken by a muted lowing as of animals run to ground, that a human being makes when in the jaws of fear and suffering in the flesh. They filed into the interrogation room. Standing there in the raw lamplight, they made the strangest, most pitiable sight imaginable. They were trembling from the pain of blows and wounds, the humiliating anguish of finding themselves under police control had worked its implacable terror, nullifying their most basic reasoning power. One by one they gave their personal data until it came to the Maestro, who was bleeding from a wound in the forehead and whose paralyzed left arm had a grotesque twist from fractures in several places caused by blows from booted feet. He said-his name and age, and when

the police chief—a smiling, obese little man with a cheery look and meticulous manner thinly overlaid on a cruel, cold interior—asked for his address, he replied: "I live nowhere. My mission is to carry truth by the roadways and to sow it everywhere men suffer injustice and grief." "Let's do without the sermons," replied the official, "and come to the point." "Whoever loses time with me shall gain it in the hereafter," answered the Maestro without batting an eye. "Uh-huh, okay. Let's see. You're accused of the crimes of subverting public order, conspiracy against the security of the state, brawling, unlawful assembly, illegal practice of medicine, fraud and procuring. We have on record witnesses' declarations to prove each of these imputations. Do you have anything to state?" "He who weaves a lie, weaves his own shroud and loses his soul," the accused replied with the same serenity. "If you have anything to state counter to the accusations made against you by the Public Ministry, say it, please, and stop spouting parables, or metaphors, or whatever. This is no time for that—your life is at stake here, and perhaps the lives of your companions," the police chief warned him, impatient. "If I have done anything wrong, I alone am guilty. If they followed me it was due to my counsel and the renown of my works, and therefore they are innocent. Do not sully your justice with useless sacrifices." "I'll make the decisions here, not you. Lock them up!" ordered the police chief. The guardias took them out to the courtyard. They walked through the warm, clear night air, stirred by the passage of serene and somnolent clouds journeying toward the sea in search of morning in other lands. All of them sensed the spellbinding promise of impossible happiness that hovers above huge open spaces, and the vanity and smallness of their own affairs. The old fisherman straggled behind, contemplating the moon, and suddenly felt surging up in his blood, now soured by the pain and jeering, the drunken liberty of the sea on which he had lived for so many years of voyages, catches, and pursuit of the sperm whales and banks of tuna whose wild nomadic urges had ruled his sailor's life. A kick in the kidneys brought him back to the present. "Inside, Grandpa, inside—this is no time for staring at the sky!" A

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Berkeley Fiction Review shove flung him to the cement floor damp with threadlets of blood spattered in all directions, warm and sticky, whose touch redoubled his terror and drained his vital energies nearly dry. He dragged himself over to lean against the wall and when his eyes became accustomed to the dimness of the cell, the silhouette of the Maestro, his face a network of dried blood, appeared before his eyes. It was a long time before either of them spoke. Since the first day the old man had met him at the port, a tacit pact had been convened between them excluding from their relationship certain of the pompous, doctrinaire affectations the Maestro often took on to keep the other disciples at a distance. With the old man, friendship sprang from a deeper source, and a greater truth glimmered between the words of their conversations, as if each had marked off a certain camp for himself, an isolated dominion in which the other held no sway. "What now, Maestro?" the old man finally asked. "Things have started to come together now and we can do nothing except await the miracle." "But we will die, sir, and everything will be lost forever; no one will be freed from misery, and injustice among men will only strengthen its foundation." "It will be quite the opposite. My sacrifice will give you the implements to sow throughout the world the word of salvation, and you shall be the foundation of my temple." "Ay! —Sir, we're cut off here and nobody knows we're in jail, and when they find out, it'll be from the mouths of the people who've just beaten us and thrown us in jail, and their version is going to serve their own ends. They'll make us out to be hucksters and criminals. We've got to try to get out of this as best we can. Let's admit some of the things they're charging us with, and try our luck elsewhere. If we don't, we're lost, and with us, your word and your message." "You grow faint from the hurt in your flesh and the fear that gnaws your innards. They can do nothing against us. Not even your weakness will prevail against us, nor against yourself. In you I confide my doctrine and my truth, and even so, before the cock crows you will deny me three times." "That's crazy, sir. Fear's in your body, too, and it's making you see us as weaker than we really are." "The cock will tell. Now let me be with my father." Pedro remained 112

Before the Cock Crows silent, and in a short time a profound sleep, populated with anguish and routed cries of terror, pushed his head down onto the shoulder of his companion, whose gaze was lost in a nameless eternity from which he derived the substance of his miracles and his preachings. The old man was startled awake. They were shouting his name, the guardias were shouting it and his companions were repeating it in whispers. He stood up, drowsy and numb, and went out into the cool of the night, which bathed the courtyard with a milky substance made of cold itself, ocean breeze and dew condensed on the city's sleep. He breathed deeply and an anguish to live, to continue to walk the earth, to partake of those simple and everlasting things that make the world the only possible place for man gripped him by the throat; a deep sob rose out of him that was almost of joy. They took him before the chief again. The latter picked through some papers, pulled out the ones he was looking for and began the interrogation: "So you have a fishing license? There are no past offenses in your folder. On the contrary, I see you have commendations from Lifesaving for aiding companions in danger on two occasions. You're obviously not in the same class as the others. You're not some adventurer without a trade, or a con artist taking advantage of people who don't know any better. Who forced you to follow them?" "No one forced me, sir. Some have been my friends for a long time and are peaceful people and good citizens like myself/' "And what can you tell me about the others? The ones you didn't know before, what can you tell me about them? They don't rate so high with you, do they? Answer me!" "About the rest I don't know, sir. I can't tell you much. I've known them such a short time." "And yet you live with them, and you conspire with them, you swindle widows with supposed resurrections and other obvious hoaxes." "I think they're good lads, sir. As far as the miracles go, there are sworn testimonies..." "Yes, I know how these testimonies get sworn. Stop playing the fool and answer me! Is the head man one pf these old friends of yours?" "No, sir. I've known him barely a few months. He stayed at my house when I lent him my boat to preach to the fishermen coming back to port from the sea. I didn't know him before, sir." 113


Berkeley Fiction Review shove flung him to the cement floor damp with threadlets of blood spattered in all directions, warm and sticky, whose touch redoubled his terror and drained his vital energies nearly dry. He dragged himself over to lean against the wall and when his eyes became accustomed to the dimness of the cell, the silhouette of the Maestro, his face a network of dried blood, appeared before his eyes. It was a long time before either of them spoke. Since the first day the old man had met him at the port, a tacit pact had been convened between them excluding from their relationship certain of the pompous, doctrinaire affectations the Maestro often took on to keep the other disciples at a distance. With the old man, friendship sprang from a deeper source, and a greater truth glimmered between the words of their conversations, as if each had marked off a certain camp for himself, an isolated dominion in which the other held no sway. "What now, Maestro?" the old man finally asked. "Things have started to come together now and we can do nothing except await the miracle." "But we will die, sir, and everything will be lost forever; no one will be freed from misery, and injustice among men will only strengthen its foundation." "It will be quite the opposite. My sacrifice will give you the implements to sow throughout the world the word of salvation, and you shall be the foundation of my temple." "Ay! —Sir, we're cut off here and nobody knows we're in jail, and when they find out, it'll be from the mouths of the people who've just beaten us and thrown us in jail, and their version is going to serve their own ends. They'll make us out to be hucksters and criminals. We've got to try to get out of this as best we can. Let's admit some of the things they're charging us with, and try our luck elsewhere. If we don't, we're lost, and with us, your word and your message." "You grow faint from the hurt in your flesh and the fear that gnaws your innards. They can do nothing against us. Not even your weakness will prevail against us, nor against yourself. In you I confide my doctrine and my truth, and even so, before the cock crows you will deny me three times." "That's crazy, sir. Fear's in your body, too, and it's making you see us as weaker than we really are." "The cock will tell. Now let me be with my father." Pedro remained 112

Before the Cock Crows silent, and in a short time a profound sleep, populated with anguish and routed cries of terror, pushed his head down onto the shoulder of his companion, whose gaze was lost in a nameless eternity from which he derived the substance of his miracles and his preachings. The old man was startled awake. They were shouting his name, the guardias were shouting it and his companions were repeating it in whispers. He stood up, drowsy and numb, and went out into the cool of the night, which bathed the courtyard with a milky substance made of cold itself, ocean breeze and dew condensed on the city's sleep. He breathed deeply and an anguish to live, to continue to walk the earth, to partake of those simple and everlasting things that make the world the only possible place for man gripped him by the throat; a deep sob rose out of him that was almost of joy. They took him before the chief again. The latter picked through some papers, pulled out the ones he was looking for and began the interrogation: "So you have a fishing license? There are no past offenses in your folder. On the contrary, I see you have commendations from Lifesaving for aiding companions in danger on two occasions. You're obviously not in the same class as the others. You're not some adventurer without a trade, or a con artist taking advantage of people who don't know any better. Who forced you to follow them?" "No one forced me, sir. Some have been my friends for a long time and are peaceful people and good citizens like myself/' "And what can you tell me about the others? The ones you didn't know before, what can you tell me about them? They don't rate so high with you, do they? Answer me!" "About the rest I don't know, sir. I can't tell you much. I've known them such a short time." "And yet you live with them, and you conspire with them, you swindle widows with supposed resurrections and other obvious hoaxes." "I think they're good lads, sir. As far as the miracles go, there are sworn testimonies..." "Yes, I know how these testimonies get sworn. Stop playing the fool and answer me! Is the head man one pf these old friends of yours?" "No, sir. I've known him barely a few months. He stayed at my house when I lent him my boat to preach to the fishermen coming back to port from the sea. I didn't know him before, sir." 113


Berkeley1 Fiction Review "Hmph! And you followed him without even knowing him?" "I don't have any nets right now, sir. I rented them out to some fishermen at the lake, and instead of staying home, well, I..." "You went on the road like a peddler! That's what it amounts to. You haven't shown much sense, have you, Grandpa! What's your opinion of the Maestro? Who is he? Where does he come from? What's he up to with his agitating? Come on—answer! You live in this city, you're known as a serious, honest man, your workmates respect you; are you going to throw away your good name and Kfe of hard work, just to help this man when you don't even know his family or where he was born?" "No, sir. I'm thinking of going back to my work. I just wanted to get to see a bit of the land. I've spent my whole life sailing, and I'd never gone inland. Now I've done it. I'll go back to my work now." "Very well." We'll see if it isn't too late to change your mind. Go ahead, sign this and we'll leave you in peace; you'll go back to your boat and your nets." The old man examined the text. It was a long, elaborate series of legal formulas shrouding something quite stark: his retraction of any connivance or commonality of ideas with the Maestro, a covert but conclusive admission that he had gone along with him without any faith in his doctrine, more for curiosity and adventure than anything else. He signed in silence and was taken to a narrow alcove where two officers were snoring. It was dense with the fumes of cheap liquor and the bitter, penetrating reek of sweat. They gave him a blanket and waved him to a little metal cot with a ragged mattress worn in the center from use. He stretched out on it and clung to sleep. He dreamed he was watering some horses who looked at him fixedly with their big eyes, aqueous and sorrowful, before lowering their heads to the water bucket, which he lifted very slightly off the ground. In the distance his mother, standing on a cliff with her strong legs apart to keep her balance, waved a long white veil like a signal toward the lonely sleeping sea. The horses, as they bent down to drink, whispered in an incomprehensible language something shameful about the woman and what she was doing. Confused, he tried to smile, as if he didn't want to learn what the animals were talking about, while they pawed the ground harder and harder. He was awakened by boots striking the flagstones in the courtyard. A company of grenadiers was forming for its morning call. 114

Before ihe Cock Crows He wandered around the corridors, ignored by everyone. A few times he tried, without success, to find where they had been locked up the night before. * He got lost in a labyrinth of hallways and doors constantly opening and closing as guardias and aides walked hurriedly by with perturbed expressions. The time that had elapsed since they were riding in the bus by the lake shore, in the direction of the city, was blurred in his mind. A nagging discomfort kept him from settling down, as if he had something very urgent to do and couldn't remember what it was. Around noon, when one of the doors to the inner courtyard opened, he heard a braying that sounded like a bull being castrated with the blow of an axe, mixed with bursts of laughter from women, apparently drunk. The door closed, extinguishing the moaning and laughter. In a stroke the old man came back to the reality of the previous night and the events that had brought them there. He thought of the Maestro, his inseparable kerchief, and the man in the raincoat. He hadn't arrived with them. He hadn't been there at the port, either. Or maybe so. At first. Yes, he was there in the beginning, but afterwards he had vanished. And the young mechanic, and his dubiously respectable sisters, and the dried bird salesman with his unquenchable loquacity. A sharp pang made him lower his face. He had betrayed them. He had denied them. He had denied the Maestro. He had made him look like some stranger he had followed for want of better diversion during his temporary idleness. And the truth was that he had introduced him to his mother when they went to the mountains during the summer, and together they had gone to see his father to arrange some carpentry work for the fisherman's boat, and the two old men had conversed at length about their good times and the challenges of their apprenticeships in their trades. And there was more. But it was he who had insisted on following him, because the Maestro was a bit reluctant to accept him at first, since he was already in the twilight of his life, and the task required of him might be arduous; he was, besides, the only one with whom the Maestro had a personal friendship, even a certain respect for the maturity of his years. Now he had denied him! And the Maestro had predicted it of him, kind in his clairvoyance. He was torn from his painful meditations when two women, dressed in disheveled expensive evening dresses dnd still with signs of drunkenness, burst out into the courtyard from the door through which he 115


Berkeley1 Fiction Review "Hmph! And you followed him without even knowing him?" "I don't have any nets right now, sir. I rented them out to some fishermen at the lake, and instead of staying home, well, I..." "You went on the road like a peddler! That's what it amounts to. You haven't shown much sense, have you, Grandpa! What's your opinion of the Maestro? Who is he? Where does he come from? What's he up to with his agitating? Come on—answer! You live in this city, you're known as a serious, honest man, your workmates respect you; are you going to throw away your good name and Kfe of hard work, just to help this man when you don't even know his family or where he was born?" "No, sir. I'm thinking of going back to my work. I just wanted to get to see a bit of the land. I've spent my whole life sailing, and I'd never gone inland. Now I've done it. I'll go back to my work now." "Very well." We'll see if it isn't too late to change your mind. Go ahead, sign this and we'll leave you in peace; you'll go back to your boat and your nets." The old man examined the text. It was a long, elaborate series of legal formulas shrouding something quite stark: his retraction of any connivance or commonality of ideas with the Maestro, a covert but conclusive admission that he had gone along with him without any faith in his doctrine, more for curiosity and adventure than anything else. He signed in silence and was taken to a narrow alcove where two officers were snoring. It was dense with the fumes of cheap liquor and the bitter, penetrating reek of sweat. They gave him a blanket and waved him to a little metal cot with a ragged mattress worn in the center from use. He stretched out on it and clung to sleep. He dreamed he was watering some horses who looked at him fixedly with their big eyes, aqueous and sorrowful, before lowering their heads to the water bucket, which he lifted very slightly off the ground. In the distance his mother, standing on a cliff with her strong legs apart to keep her balance, waved a long white veil like a signal toward the lonely sleeping sea. The horses, as they bent down to drink, whispered in an incomprehensible language something shameful about the woman and what she was doing. Confused, he tried to smile, as if he didn't want to learn what the animals were talking about, while they pawed the ground harder and harder. He was awakened by boots striking the flagstones in the courtyard. A company of grenadiers was forming for its morning call. 114

Before ihe Cock Crows He wandered around the corridors, ignored by everyone. A few times he tried, without success, to find where they had been locked up the night before. * He got lost in a labyrinth of hallways and doors constantly opening and closing as guardias and aides walked hurriedly by with perturbed expressions. The time that had elapsed since they were riding in the bus by the lake shore, in the direction of the city, was blurred in his mind. A nagging discomfort kept him from settling down, as if he had something very urgent to do and couldn't remember what it was. Around noon, when one of the doors to the inner courtyard opened, he heard a braying that sounded like a bull being castrated with the blow of an axe, mixed with bursts of laughter from women, apparently drunk. The door closed, extinguishing the moaning and laughter. In a stroke the old man came back to the reality of the previous night and the events that had brought them there. He thought of the Maestro, his inseparable kerchief, and the man in the raincoat. He hadn't arrived with them. He hadn't been there at the port, either. Or maybe so. At first. Yes, he was there in the beginning, but afterwards he had vanished. And the young mechanic, and his dubiously respectable sisters, and the dried bird salesman with his unquenchable loquacity. A sharp pang made him lower his face. He had betrayed them. He had denied them. He had denied the Maestro. He had made him look like some stranger he had followed for want of better diversion during his temporary idleness. And the truth was that he had introduced him to his mother when they went to the mountains during the summer, and together they had gone to see his father to arrange some carpentry work for the fisherman's boat, and the two old men had conversed at length about their good times and the challenges of their apprenticeships in their trades. And there was more. But it was he who had insisted on following him, because the Maestro was a bit reluctant to accept him at first, since he was already in the twilight of his life, and the task required of him might be arduous; he was, besides, the only one with whom the Maestro had a personal friendship, even a certain respect for the maturity of his years. Now he had denied him! And the Maestro had predicted it of him, kind in his clairvoyance. He was torn from his painful meditations when two women, dressed in disheveled expensive evening dresses dnd still with signs of drunkenness, burst out into the courtyard from the door through which he 115


Berkeley Fiction Review had heard the noise. They were accompanied by a police officer who was joking with them about what was going on inside, behind the door. "'I am the fountain of life and eternal resurrection!'" cried the younger woman, who had a muscular, masculine look, at once vicious and volatile. "What balls! At first I thought he was coming on to me, till I saw him up close. Ha! Ha! Ha! 'With these fishhooks, anyone can resuscitate!' Resuscitate your dingus, baby! Let me resuscitate you, sweetie!.And the loojc on his face, hahaha—like a bug bit him!" "And the boy—how'd you like that boy?—the mechanic," said the other, tall and black with a frigidity betrayed by cruel, motionless lips and the calculating gaze in her large dead eyes. "All that consoling from his cell! Must be one of those. Did you see how he cried for his Maestro? His beloved Maestro! That's what they must call them now. They make up a new name every day!" They passed by him without a glance, trailing their bitter aroma, a mixture of vomit and expensive perfume, their hips and legs pumping in long martial strides. "Like mares in the paddock before the race," he thought, "and just as useless, excitable, fickle, destructive and arrogant." They crossed the courtyard and went out through the middle door. The guardia accompanied them to the street and came back, proud of the fake friendliness the girls had shown him. He was trying to insinuate that he had gone much further with them than his comrades would believe. "And all for some momentary bohemian urge, turning intimacy into a wild sport and thinking they're sophisticated," thought the old man. They were talking about the Maestro, then. The Maestro and the youngest one. They must have been amusing themselves with him. Those were the laughs and the cries. An agonizing panic rose from his insides and knotted in his throat. And the others? What had become of the others? What had become of the others? The guardias passed by without noticing him, and made no reply to his timid attempts to investigate. At last oneof them, less rushed or more kindly, stepped: "What do you want, Grandpa? Did you lose something here?" "Do you know anything about the Maestro? Where are his disciples?" "Don't tell me you're with- that band of malcontents. You seem respectable, I wouldn't think a graybeard would be pulling their type of tricks." 116

Before the Cock Crows "No, of course I don't have anything to do with them. Just curiosity—the thing i& being talked about so much." "Well, they've put all the blame on the one who gives the orders. The rest left at dawn except for the young one, who insisted on staying to help him through his last hours. He's confessed some things. Enough to charge him with crimes like conspiracy against the security of the state, fraud and worse. They execute him this afternoon. I think he's on the loony side, myself; you can't understand much of what he says. Want to see him?" "No," the old man answered in fright. "I was only curious. Thank you. Thank you very much." "All right. But what are you doing here?" asked the other, suddenly intrigued by the old man's presence at this hour in the courtyard, to which only personnel and very special prisoners were allowed access. "Me?" stammered the poor man, still more frightened. "Nothing, nothing ...a fine—you know? Fishing in the Naval Base waters...the rules .. .you know how it is.. .they're very strict.. .1 mean., .nothing serious." "Okay, okay," the guardia answered, satisfied. "Get your business taken care of, Grandpa. You can see this isn't the place for you. Those whores have been whooping it up all night! They were all hot to get next to the prophet, and when they got in there they started blurring out the nastiest things they could think up; we finally had to take them away by force. This is no sight for your gray head. All right, out of here. Good-bye." "Thank you," Pedro replied. "Thank you very much. Good-bye." And he stood motionless, deeply absorbed, invaded again by enormous shame. But this time a sensation of some internal springs gently relaxing began to dominate the remorse, and memories of his life at sea, of his family, of the daily routine at the port, began to merge into a solid crust which the shame slid over now, without wounding him in those deep, secret zones that returned to their shadowed peace. Noon went by; around one, two guardias with the clouded expression of exhaustion from arduous effort came out of the door and signaled to him. They had the look of having done something shameful and forbidden. The sight of the old man's gray head pained them even 117


Berkeley Fiction Review had heard the noise. They were accompanied by a police officer who was joking with them about what was going on inside, behind the door. "'I am the fountain of life and eternal resurrection!'" cried the younger woman, who had a muscular, masculine look, at once vicious and volatile. "What balls! At first I thought he was coming on to me, till I saw him up close. Ha! Ha! Ha! 'With these fishhooks, anyone can resuscitate!' Resuscitate your dingus, baby! Let me resuscitate you, sweetie!.And the loojc on his face, hahaha—like a bug bit him!" "And the boy—how'd you like that boy?—the mechanic," said the other, tall and black with a frigidity betrayed by cruel, motionless lips and the calculating gaze in her large dead eyes. "All that consoling from his cell! Must be one of those. Did you see how he cried for his Maestro? His beloved Maestro! That's what they must call them now. They make up a new name every day!" They passed by him without a glance, trailing their bitter aroma, a mixture of vomit and expensive perfume, their hips and legs pumping in long martial strides. "Like mares in the paddock before the race," he thought, "and just as useless, excitable, fickle, destructive and arrogant." They crossed the courtyard and went out through the middle door. The guardia accompanied them to the street and came back, proud of the fake friendliness the girls had shown him. He was trying to insinuate that he had gone much further with them than his comrades would believe. "And all for some momentary bohemian urge, turning intimacy into a wild sport and thinking they're sophisticated," thought the old man. They were talking about the Maestro, then. The Maestro and the youngest one. They must have been amusing themselves with him. Those were the laughs and the cries. An agonizing panic rose from his insides and knotted in his throat. And the others? What had become of the others? What had become of the others? The guardias passed by without noticing him, and made no reply to his timid attempts to investigate. At last oneof them, less rushed or more kindly, stepped: "What do you want, Grandpa? Did you lose something here?" "Do you know anything about the Maestro? Where are his disciples?" "Don't tell me you're with- that band of malcontents. You seem respectable, I wouldn't think a graybeard would be pulling their type of tricks." 116

Before the Cock Crows "No, of course I don't have anything to do with them. Just curiosity—the thing i& being talked about so much." "Well, they've put all the blame on the one who gives the orders. The rest left at dawn except for the young one, who insisted on staying to help him through his last hours. He's confessed some things. Enough to charge him with crimes like conspiracy against the security of the state, fraud and worse. They execute him this afternoon. I think he's on the loony side, myself; you can't understand much of what he says. Want to see him?" "No," the old man answered in fright. "I was only curious. Thank you. Thank you very much." "All right. But what are you doing here?" asked the other, suddenly intrigued by the old man's presence at this hour in the courtyard, to which only personnel and very special prisoners were allowed access. "Me?" stammered the poor man, still more frightened. "Nothing, nothing ...a fine—you know? Fishing in the Naval Base waters...the rules .. .you know how it is.. .they're very strict.. .1 mean., .nothing serious." "Okay, okay," the guardia answered, satisfied. "Get your business taken care of, Grandpa. You can see this isn't the place for you. Those whores have been whooping it up all night! They were all hot to get next to the prophet, and when they got in there they started blurring out the nastiest things they could think up; we finally had to take them away by force. This is no sight for your gray head. All right, out of here. Good-bye." "Thank you," Pedro replied. "Thank you very much. Good-bye." And he stood motionless, deeply absorbed, invaded again by enormous shame. But this time a sensation of some internal springs gently relaxing began to dominate the remorse, and memories of his life at sea, of his family, of the daily routine at the port, began to merge into a solid crust which the shame slid over now, without wounding him in those deep, secret zones that returned to their shadowed peace. Noon went by; around one, two guardias with the clouded expression of exhaustion from arduous effort came out of the door and signaled to him. They had the look of having done something shameful and forbidden. The sight of the old man's gray head pained them even 117


Berkeley Fiction Review more, and they managed only a shaky "Follow us," in a harsh, fuzzy voice which reawoke his terror of the night before. They went down a narrow corridor with iron doors painted white. At the end was a small room, apparently a medical office or examination room, glowing with intense illumination. A few chairs, an examining couch in dark red leather, some surgical apparatus with an oxygen mask and cylinders of anaesthetic gas confirmed the general impression of an infirmary. A strong odor of disinfectant, mixed with the sweetish smell of fresh blood, hung lightly in the atmosphere. He went in, blinking under the intensity of the lamps. The guardias pushed him gently, guiding him by the shoulders. "He wants to speak to you. The chief gave permission. They're done with him. You can talk as much as you want. We'll come for you when it's time. Okay... inside." And they left, their boots resounding in the silent hallway. The old man suddenly understood. An instinctive motion to follow the guardias, to flee, to not see the grotesquely jittering man tied to the white metal stool, spitting blood and whimpering like a child in pain, made him step back toward the door, which at that moment closed behind him under the impulsion of a powerful spring. Confused, ashamed, infused with a burning animal pity that seared his throat, he drew near until he could feel on his face the broken breath from an orifice uniting what had once been mouth and nostrils, which let in a little air to the mangled victim. Pedro beheld him in silence, and tears of devastating tenderness flowed down his sun-beaten sailor's face, as all the wounds and blows palpitating in the other man, each with an individual reflex action, struck repercussions in his own flesh. The Maestro was naked, his face fallen forward; brass knuckles had obliterated all resemblance to a human profile. One eye hung out of its socket in bloody, dirty-white shreds. The other was moving ceaselessly, wild in its flayed hollow. One shoulder jutted forward, wrenched out of place. They had kept at this fracture until the bone was completely severed. His other arm was horribly burned, and from his fingernails dripped an acid that bubbled onto the floor and spread out in a blackish stain. His legs were brutally parted, at the base the monstrous goiter of his testicles; from their skin hung a multitude of hooks used by trout fishermen, some with vivid-colored feathers, others dangling a deli118

Before the Cock Crows care* insect with vibrating tentacles, a few with nickle-plated scoops that glinted brightly, whirling, the rest gaudy objects of indeterminate shape. A line running through the fishhooks hung down to the floor. His feet quivered ceaselessly, the toes cut off at the root. The posture of the body, the foreshortening of the trunk sitting on the surgical stool, suggested the figure of a laughable scarecrow in extreme pain, perhaps due to the bubbles forming in rhythm with the words that clumsily broke through the hole that had been his mouth. "I want to speak to you, Pedro, only to you, because I know your spirit is weak but your heart is greater than your brothers', and you have fewer things to distract you from your true destiny* You shall come after me: upon this, my death, you shall erect the eternal word and with it render yourself invincible, and the forces of evil shall have no power over you, nor over those who hear you and follow you. "They've made me confess horrible lies. The poor, those with nothing to lose, will know that these untruths sprang from the pain and weakness of this unhappy flesh. They will hear you, and among them you shall found my family. You will not be able to evade your mission; the peace of your days and the joys of your profession are over. Go now." The old man sobbed, kneeling before the speaking corpse. With a handkerchief he tried to clean the shapeless mass of the face so foreign to the words issuing from it now. A jerk of impatience shook the body, rocking the chair to which it was tied: "Leave me, I tell you. I must soon account for the mission conferred upon me among men. Have no pity for me. Have pity on yourself, and weep for the days that await you. Go!" The old man started to get up, backing toward the door, his eyes fixed on the tortured man, when two men dressed in white and wearing surgical gloves entered the room carrying bottles and metal instrument cases. "Leave us alone," they ordered him."We're going to fix him up so they can show him in public, and we're supposed to leave no sign of what the guardias did to him. It's going to be hard and we've only got a couple of hours. Beat it... hurry it up." While one took him to the door, the other set about arranging the table with forceps, knives and other instruments of various shapes and sizes. 119


Berkeley Fiction Review more, and they managed only a shaky "Follow us," in a harsh, fuzzy voice which reawoke his terror of the night before. They went down a narrow corridor with iron doors painted white. At the end was a small room, apparently a medical office or examination room, glowing with intense illumination. A few chairs, an examining couch in dark red leather, some surgical apparatus with an oxygen mask and cylinders of anaesthetic gas confirmed the general impression of an infirmary. A strong odor of disinfectant, mixed with the sweetish smell of fresh blood, hung lightly in the atmosphere. He went in, blinking under the intensity of the lamps. The guardias pushed him gently, guiding him by the shoulders. "He wants to speak to you. The chief gave permission. They're done with him. You can talk as much as you want. We'll come for you when it's time. Okay... inside." And they left, their boots resounding in the silent hallway. The old man suddenly understood. An instinctive motion to follow the guardias, to flee, to not see the grotesquely jittering man tied to the white metal stool, spitting blood and whimpering like a child in pain, made him step back toward the door, which at that moment closed behind him under the impulsion of a powerful spring. Confused, ashamed, infused with a burning animal pity that seared his throat, he drew near until he could feel on his face the broken breath from an orifice uniting what had once been mouth and nostrils, which let in a little air to the mangled victim. Pedro beheld him in silence, and tears of devastating tenderness flowed down his sun-beaten sailor's face, as all the wounds and blows palpitating in the other man, each with an individual reflex action, struck repercussions in his own flesh. The Maestro was naked, his face fallen forward; brass knuckles had obliterated all resemblance to a human profile. One eye hung out of its socket in bloody, dirty-white shreds. The other was moving ceaselessly, wild in its flayed hollow. One shoulder jutted forward, wrenched out of place. They had kept at this fracture until the bone was completely severed. His other arm was horribly burned, and from his fingernails dripped an acid that bubbled onto the floor and spread out in a blackish stain. His legs were brutally parted, at the base the monstrous goiter of his testicles; from their skin hung a multitude of hooks used by trout fishermen, some with vivid-colored feathers, others dangling a deli118

Before the Cock Crows care* insect with vibrating tentacles, a few with nickle-plated scoops that glinted brightly, whirling, the rest gaudy objects of indeterminate shape. A line running through the fishhooks hung down to the floor. His feet quivered ceaselessly, the toes cut off at the root. The posture of the body, the foreshortening of the trunk sitting on the surgical stool, suggested the figure of a laughable scarecrow in extreme pain, perhaps due to the bubbles forming in rhythm with the words that clumsily broke through the hole that had been his mouth. "I want to speak to you, Pedro, only to you, because I know your spirit is weak but your heart is greater than your brothers', and you have fewer things to distract you from your true destiny* You shall come after me: upon this, my death, you shall erect the eternal word and with it render yourself invincible, and the forces of evil shall have no power over you, nor over those who hear you and follow you. "They've made me confess horrible lies. The poor, those with nothing to lose, will know that these untruths sprang from the pain and weakness of this unhappy flesh. They will hear you, and among them you shall found my family. You will not be able to evade your mission; the peace of your days and the joys of your profession are over. Go now." The old man sobbed, kneeling before the speaking corpse. With a handkerchief he tried to clean the shapeless mass of the face so foreign to the words issuing from it now. A jerk of impatience shook the body, rocking the chair to which it was tied: "Leave me, I tell you. I must soon account for the mission conferred upon me among men. Have no pity for me. Have pity on yourself, and weep for the days that await you. Go!" The old man started to get up, backing toward the door, his eyes fixed on the tortured man, when two men dressed in white and wearing surgical gloves entered the room carrying bottles and metal instrument cases. "Leave us alone," they ordered him."We're going to fix him up so they can show him in public, and we're supposed to leave no sign of what the guardias did to him. It's going to be hard and we've only got a couple of hours. Beat it... hurry it up." While one took him to the door, the other set about arranging the table with forceps, knives and other instruments of various shapes and sizes. 119


Berkeley Fiction Review He was left alone in the corridor, not knowing which way to go. Weariness saturated him to the bone, grief clawed his insides, making it impossible to think or even move. He was weeping, weeping silently, tirelessly, as if some conduit inside him had broken and was flooding out of control. Someone passing by bumped into him without seeing him. He heard the person beg pardon and answered without hearing his own words. A long time went by. It consisted of vast, pain-riddled expanses of terrible oneness with the man. Huge spaces without time, from which he was rescued by the voice of a medic who was handing him something unrecognizable. "Here, he said this was for you." He put out his hand and received the weight of a cloth wet with blood. He recognized the silk kerchief, and what had been the stylized lines of regatta champions, which beneath the dried blood looked like jumbled traces of an ancient language on a cloth mouldered under centuries of time and the forgetfulness of humankind. He stepped into the courtyard as though sleepwalking and leaned against one of the far columns; sleep overcame him. As he departed from wakefulness, a phrase came to him which he afterward forgot forever, and which became the essence of his nightmares that night. "As old as fish with marble flesh and the smell of hollyhocks." When he awoke it was night. They had thrown a cell blanket over him, and he wrapped himself up to get some more sleep. He looked toward the stars and, neither perceiving nor comprehending the arching celestial hollow, sank into dreams again. The following morning he was awakened by the noise of boots and guns. He opened his eyes and saw a guardia rinsing his teeth, spitting a white, mint-smelling liquid into the gutter of the courtyard. His limbs felt swollen from the hard bed of flagstones on which he had slept. A sergeant who had been keeping an eye on him walked up and said: "All right, old man, you've slept off your drunk, now get going and don't cause any more trouble for the police." Pedro looked at him and realized by the color of his insignia that a new regiment had come to relieve the one from the day before. Perhaps they took him for one of those roistering night-owls who in their errant inebriation often strayed into quiet respectable neighborhoods. Under the sergeant's gaze he got to his feet; he came up to the man's 120

Before the Cock Crows mouth. The fresh morning air gave him enough strength to walk, and he made for the door to leave. He was starting to be convinced that he hadjn truth arrived here because of some barroom incident. As he pushed the door, a crisp military voice shouted: "Hey! Where's that one going? Who said he could leave? Halt!" Someone grabbed him by the shoulder and brusquely turned him around. A corpulent, half-dressed officer looked the old man up and down, examining him with drowsy leisure. "The sergeant," Pedro replied. "The sergeant told me I could leave, sir," and he gestured toward the rear of the courtyard where the sergeant who had told him to go was cleaning a pistol. "Sergeant!" the officer shouted. "What's the story with this one?" "No part in last night's business. Seems to have come in drunk and they gave him a fine or something." "All right, you can go, and be a little smarter next time, okay?" The old man opened the door and went into a long dark hall where the lights had been turned off and the morning rays had not yet penetrated. At the end of it lay an apple-colored sun spreading a gentle, shadowless light over the street. The fisherman went toward the exit, still staggering but more awake now, aware that something awaited him outside that would free him from the vague and cumbrous burden weighing on him in on a corner of his memory. Suddenly, as he reached the threshold, someone called to him again from inside. It was the captain, who leaned out of the doorway to ask him: "Hey you! Sure you're not one of the followers of that guy they executed yesterday afternoon?" Pedro turned to look at him and stopped, not knowing what to say. "No, I wouldn't know who that was, sir," he finally managed to answer.Tm a fisherman from the port. My license is in order. I don't know about anybody who got executed. The license...you know...in the Base waters...but I paid...I'm clear. I...you know...?" "All right," interrupted the other good-naturedly. "Off with you and good luck." The door slammed and the hallway was in semidarkness again. Crossing the threshold he was bathed in the tepid light of the street. A cock launched its four-note song into the sky like an acrobat beginning the show by tossing into the air the swords about to be swallowed. The crowing inaugurated the morning, populating it with all the sounds 121


Berkeley Fiction Review He was left alone in the corridor, not knowing which way to go. Weariness saturated him to the bone, grief clawed his insides, making it impossible to think or even move. He was weeping, weeping silently, tirelessly, as if some conduit inside him had broken and was flooding out of control. Someone passing by bumped into him without seeing him. He heard the person beg pardon and answered without hearing his own words. A long time went by. It consisted of vast, pain-riddled expanses of terrible oneness with the man. Huge spaces without time, from which he was rescued by the voice of a medic who was handing him something unrecognizable. "Here, he said this was for you." He put out his hand and received the weight of a cloth wet with blood. He recognized the silk kerchief, and what had been the stylized lines of regatta champions, which beneath the dried blood looked like jumbled traces of an ancient language on a cloth mouldered under centuries of time and the forgetfulness of humankind. He stepped into the courtyard as though sleepwalking and leaned against one of the far columns; sleep overcame him. As he departed from wakefulness, a phrase came to him which he afterward forgot forever, and which became the essence of his nightmares that night. "As old as fish with marble flesh and the smell of hollyhocks." When he awoke it was night. They had thrown a cell blanket over him, and he wrapped himself up to get some more sleep. He looked toward the stars and, neither perceiving nor comprehending the arching celestial hollow, sank into dreams again. The following morning he was awakened by the noise of boots and guns. He opened his eyes and saw a guardia rinsing his teeth, spitting a white, mint-smelling liquid into the gutter of the courtyard. His limbs felt swollen from the hard bed of flagstones on which he had slept. A sergeant who had been keeping an eye on him walked up and said: "All right, old man, you've slept off your drunk, now get going and don't cause any more trouble for the police." Pedro looked at him and realized by the color of his insignia that a new regiment had come to relieve the one from the day before. Perhaps they took him for one of those roistering night-owls who in their errant inebriation often strayed into quiet respectable neighborhoods. Under the sergeant's gaze he got to his feet; he came up to the man's 120

Before the Cock Crows mouth. The fresh morning air gave him enough strength to walk, and he made for the door to leave. He was starting to be convinced that he hadjn truth arrived here because of some barroom incident. As he pushed the door, a crisp military voice shouted: "Hey! Where's that one going? Who said he could leave? Halt!" Someone grabbed him by the shoulder and brusquely turned him around. A corpulent, half-dressed officer looked the old man up and down, examining him with drowsy leisure. "The sergeant," Pedro replied. "The sergeant told me I could leave, sir," and he gestured toward the rear of the courtyard where the sergeant who had told him to go was cleaning a pistol. "Sergeant!" the officer shouted. "What's the story with this one?" "No part in last night's business. Seems to have come in drunk and they gave him a fine or something." "All right, you can go, and be a little smarter next time, okay?" The old man opened the door and went into a long dark hall where the lights had been turned off and the morning rays had not yet penetrated. At the end of it lay an apple-colored sun spreading a gentle, shadowless light over the street. The fisherman went toward the exit, still staggering but more awake now, aware that something awaited him outside that would free him from the vague and cumbrous burden weighing on him in on a corner of his memory. Suddenly, as he reached the threshold, someone called to him again from inside. It was the captain, who leaned out of the doorway to ask him: "Hey you! Sure you're not one of the followers of that guy they executed yesterday afternoon?" Pedro turned to look at him and stopped, not knowing what to say. "No, I wouldn't know who that was, sir," he finally managed to answer.Tm a fisherman from the port. My license is in order. I don't know about anybody who got executed. The license...you know...in the Base waters...but I paid...I'm clear. I...you know...?" "All right," interrupted the other good-naturedly. "Off with you and good luck." The door slammed and the hallway was in semidarkness again. Crossing the threshold he was bathed in the tepid light of the street. A cock launched its four-note song into the sky like an acrobat beginning the show by tossing into the air the swords about to be swallowed. The crowing inaugurated the morning, populating it with all the sounds 121


Berkeley Fiction Review with which humanity gets its life on earth underway again. The old fisherman went down to the port. As he neared the sea, familiar locations and faces opened the doors of the world to him. The past filled up again with the reassuring ballast of memories, bitter or joyous, but the singular and unchangeable matter of his life, impelling him anew to be a man among men, one whose only doctrine was the teachings of the sea, its wiles, its sudden furies, its equally unexpected and exhausting calms. He stepped onto his boat and set to work repairing and adjusting its machinery. The contact with the tools, the purring of the motors, the ocean wind sweeping the smooth wood of the roof drew him deeper into his affairs, dissipating the overpowering gravity that the enraptured presence of the Maestro had exerted on the skillful hunter of sperm whales and tuna. He got the boat started and set its prow toward Port Headquarters. He was going to renew his fishing license. The vibration of the propeller and the churning waters around the flattened prow seemed to further weld him to the world, and he understood, then, why he had denied the Maestro, and how foreign he was to his doctrine and the impossible sacrifices it entailed. Everything gone by in the past few weeks began to recede, seeking its proper place in the past, arranging itself in his memory with all the other recollections, and losing that particular energy, that dizzying sleight of hand that had led him to the brink of renouncing his station among men. He washed the kerchief in the water that had seeped inboard and set it out to dry in one of the portholes. The silhouettes of slender yachts began to stand out again on the ivory and blue background of the silk.

—Translated by Elizabeth BellIll

T h i s

Is

t o

R e c o r d s

Notify of

Y o u

t h e A b o v e

V e t e r a n

A r e

T h a t

t h e

N a m e d

C o m p l e t e

Cassandra Gainer

Richwood, West Virginia October, 1942

A

bove them the sky is the color of nothing, sepia washed, the color of flesh behind the ears. A bone sky. He peels the sweater from her shoulders, watch from her wrist, socks from her feet. He wants to unlayer her like sheets of shale rock, like the thin skin of snakes. Beneath them are the razor edges of gravel, a coarse path of mining dirt grating her skin and elbows, the backs of her legs. He leans over her and lights a cigarette, then kisses her with the grit of tobacco on his lips and tongue. It is so quiet she is sure she can hear the air glittering, the ember of his cigarette burning orange to red. "I didn't have any money for gasoline," he tells her. So I drove here on kerosene. Two hundred miles on kerosene. I didn't think it was possible." He laughs and sits back on his heels. "The car, my car, is ruined, 123


Berkeley Fiction Review with which humanity gets its life on earth underway again. The old fisherman went down to the port. As he neared the sea, familiar locations and faces opened the doors of the world to him. The past filled up again with the reassuring ballast of memories, bitter or joyous, but the singular and unchangeable matter of his life, impelling him anew to be a man among men, one whose only doctrine was the teachings of the sea, its wiles, its sudden furies, its equally unexpected and exhausting calms. He stepped onto his boat and set to work repairing and adjusting its machinery. The contact with the tools, the purring of the motors, the ocean wind sweeping the smooth wood of the roof drew him deeper into his affairs, dissipating the overpowering gravity that the enraptured presence of the Maestro had exerted on the skillful hunter of sperm whales and tuna. He got the boat started and set its prow toward Port Headquarters. He was going to renew his fishing license. The vibration of the propeller and the churning waters around the flattened prow seemed to further weld him to the world, and he understood, then, why he had denied the Maestro, and how foreign he was to his doctrine and the impossible sacrifices it entailed. Everything gone by in the past few weeks began to recede, seeking its proper place in the past, arranging itself in his memory with all the other recollections, and losing that particular energy, that dizzying sleight of hand that had led him to the brink of renouncing his station among men. He washed the kerchief in the water that had seeped inboard and set it out to dry in one of the portholes. The silhouettes of slender yachts began to stand out again on the ivory and blue background of the silk.

—Translated by Elizabeth BellIll

T h i s

Is

t o

R e c o r d s

Notify of

Y o u

t h e A b o v e

V e t e r a n

A r e

T h a t

t h e

N a m e d

C o m p l e t e

Cassandra Gainer

Richwood, West Virginia October, 1942

A

bove them the sky is the color of nothing, sepia washed, the color of flesh behind the ears. A bone sky. He peels the sweater from her shoulders, watch from her wrist, socks from her feet. He wants to unlayer her like sheets of shale rock, like the thin skin of snakes. Beneath them are the razor edges of gravel, a coarse path of mining dirt grating her skin and elbows, the backs of her legs. He leans over her and lights a cigarette, then kisses her with the grit of tobacco on his lips and tongue. It is so quiet she is sure she can hear the air glittering, the ember of his cigarette burning orange to red. "I didn't have any money for gasoline," he tells her. So I drove here on kerosene. Two hundred miles on kerosene. I didn't think it was possible." He laughs and sits back on his heels. "The car, my car, is ruined, 123


Berkeley Fiction Review I'm sure of it. Ruined." He is suddenly serious, his breath measured. "I ruin things for you, do you understand?" He doesn't wait for her answer, but rests his head on her collarbone. Their bodies curve and rise against each other, coupling angles of arm and leg, hollows of hip and stomach. The proximities of love. An hour passes in silence. Darkness rolls the sky to night. Mist rises like flocks of angels, and settles on their breathing bodies like a second skin. This is what it's like, she thinks. To be ruined. This is what it is to crack the bone sky. Later, when he is gone, his car disappearing over the last visible hill in a shudder of smoke, she will touch her hand to her face and breathe the scent he has left with her, in the folds of her blouse, the crook of her arm. The burn of kerosene from his hand to her skin. Her blouse ruined, the elbows stained with blood, oily streaks of kerosene across her breast and arm. And the sound of a car engine backfiring in the distance, past the mountain pass. The first slivers of daylight knitting the sky.

Richwood, West Virginia August, 1943 An empty greenhouse. Abandoned. Clay pots, rusted spades, trowels. A scattering of dry soil dusting the cool ground. In the far corner, a boy and a girl, and outside, a summer rainstorm. He leans against the dark glass, lighting a cigarette in the damp night. She reaches for him, her thin arm in dark reflection around the glass room, reaching for him everywhere, again and again. Lightning rips a seam in the sky and somewhere in her a hem is unstitching itself, falling free. Touching him,collarbone, shoulder, she pulls herself to his raintouched body, The night blinks and the room is light again, glimmering, brilliant in white heat. She is saying something about lightning, she is saying something about distance. She falls against him then, only a film of rain between their two skins. Already he is leaving her, arcing toward a place where he will touch the window of a train that is rushing away. Now she will understand lightning as the tectonics of their two bodies together, the friction of his hand against her thigh, her hair sweeping 124

This Is to Notify You That the Records of the Above Named Veteran Are Complete his face and neck. She falls to him in the pulse of a storm and knows they are as irretrievable as a single drop of rain falling to wet asphalt, inseparable as thunder and rain, lightning and heat.

Naval Training Base, Tallahassee, Florida April, 1944 They stand in washes of sunlight together. The angles of her body rise and fall beneath her dress in ways that are familiar to him, the crease of his uniform is still stiff with the press of her hands on the iron. It is April and they can feel the wind turning to something sweeter, they have slept beneath the open window of their rented room and felt the night air on bare shoulders and knees, in the tangles of their hair and in the spaces between them. She has knelt at this window in the early shadows of morning as rain fell in long arcs across the sky. But now they stand for a picture. He leans into the casual stance of a young man, the sure-footed posture of a soldier. She touches him lightly on the shoulder and does not pose. Instead she reaches for him, she watches him, she cannot look away from him. Not for the camera, not for anything else. They are laughing at some shared joke, they are thinking of other things: the breakfast he burned this morning, the faint waltz that came through the open window, into their bedroom the night before. She is remembering how he stood at their bed, at the pale stretch of her naked body as if it were a white cliff he was balanced upon, a jagged edge, a line drawn in chalk. She is remembering his body, the protrusion of bone, the skin, the even cadence of ribs. She is remembering how she reached for him in the half-light, how he came to her like a boy in the darkness, how they moved together in this landscape, so sure in their young bodies, so unafraid. But now they stand on the porch together, the slatted boards a glaring white in the sun, the swing still moving slightly in the still air. Then the moment is gone, the picture, taken, the camera put away on a cupboard shelf. Later in the gray evening they will sit together on the porch swing, their knees touching, their feet brushing the floor in the same rhythm, the air between them warm and still. They will not talk about tomorrow or the next day or the many days to follow when he will not touch 125


Berkeley Fiction Review I'm sure of it. Ruined." He is suddenly serious, his breath measured. "I ruin things for you, do you understand?" He doesn't wait for her answer, but rests his head on her collarbone. Their bodies curve and rise against each other, coupling angles of arm and leg, hollows of hip and stomach. The proximities of love. An hour passes in silence. Darkness rolls the sky to night. Mist rises like flocks of angels, and settles on their breathing bodies like a second skin. This is what it's like, she thinks. To be ruined. This is what it is to crack the bone sky. Later, when he is gone, his car disappearing over the last visible hill in a shudder of smoke, she will touch her hand to her face and breathe the scent he has left with her, in the folds of her blouse, the crook of her arm. The burn of kerosene from his hand to her skin. Her blouse ruined, the elbows stained with blood, oily streaks of kerosene across her breast and arm. And the sound of a car engine backfiring in the distance, past the mountain pass. The first slivers of daylight knitting the sky.

Richwood, West Virginia August, 1943 An empty greenhouse. Abandoned. Clay pots, rusted spades, trowels. A scattering of dry soil dusting the cool ground. In the far corner, a boy and a girl, and outside, a summer rainstorm. He leans against the dark glass, lighting a cigarette in the damp night. She reaches for him, her thin arm in dark reflection around the glass room, reaching for him everywhere, again and again. Lightning rips a seam in the sky and somewhere in her a hem is unstitching itself, falling free. Touching him,collarbone, shoulder, she pulls herself to his raintouched body, The night blinks and the room is light again, glimmering, brilliant in white heat. She is saying something about lightning, she is saying something about distance. She falls against him then, only a film of rain between their two skins. Already he is leaving her, arcing toward a place where he will touch the window of a train that is rushing away. Now she will understand lightning as the tectonics of their two bodies together, the friction of his hand against her thigh, her hair sweeping 124

This Is to Notify You That the Records of the Above Named Veteran Are Complete his face and neck. She falls to him in the pulse of a storm and knows they are as irretrievable as a single drop of rain falling to wet asphalt, inseparable as thunder and rain, lightning and heat.

Naval Training Base, Tallahassee, Florida April, 1944 They stand in washes of sunlight together. The angles of her body rise and fall beneath her dress in ways that are familiar to him, the crease of his uniform is still stiff with the press of her hands on the iron. It is April and they can feel the wind turning to something sweeter, they have slept beneath the open window of their rented room and felt the night air on bare shoulders and knees, in the tangles of their hair and in the spaces between them. She has knelt at this window in the early shadows of morning as rain fell in long arcs across the sky. But now they stand for a picture. He leans into the casual stance of a young man, the sure-footed posture of a soldier. She touches him lightly on the shoulder and does not pose. Instead she reaches for him, she watches him, she cannot look away from him. Not for the camera, not for anything else. They are laughing at some shared joke, they are thinking of other things: the breakfast he burned this morning, the faint waltz that came through the open window, into their bedroom the night before. She is remembering how he stood at their bed, at the pale stretch of her naked body as if it were a white cliff he was balanced upon, a jagged edge, a line drawn in chalk. She is remembering his body, the protrusion of bone, the skin, the even cadence of ribs. She is remembering how she reached for him in the half-light, how he came to her like a boy in the darkness, how they moved together in this landscape, so sure in their young bodies, so unafraid. But now they stand on the porch together, the slatted boards a glaring white in the sun, the swing still moving slightly in the still air. Then the moment is gone, the picture, taken, the camera put away on a cupboard shelf. Later in the gray evening they will sit together on the porch swing, their knees touching, their feet brushing the floor in the same rhythm, the air between them warm and still. They will not talk about tomorrow or the next day or the many days to follow when he will not touch 125


Berkeley Fiction Review

This Is to Notify You That the Records of the Above Named Veteran Are Complete

her collarbone, eyelid, wrist. She will not tell him what she already knows, what she already feels as a flutter growing beneath her heart. Instead they talk about 4he Cranberry River, they talk about mountains, they talk about home in a way that makes her turn from him with a sadness he cannot understand. When she turns back to him, he touches her face and sees an emptiness there that he recognizes as loss. They cannot know, this boy and girl in the picture, this husband and wife in black and white. He cannot know about the vast deserts of North Africa, the dry sands and the orange skies. She cannot know about the months of waiting while a living body moves inside of her, rolling like a tide. They cannot know that this will be their last image together, this day in April on a sunlit porch. And they could not know about this last night together, his fingers in her knotted hair, the rusty imprint of the swing chain in her palm as she lets go and stands up, as she turns away from him and goes inside to bed.

Richwood, West Virginia November, 1944 Have you ever loved a man? Like death, like the very bones that walk you over this earth? Have you ever watched him from a small distance, the thin skin of his eyelids, the tips of ears translucent and pale in the strange glow of morning, the soles of his feet still dirty with his barefoot days? Have you ever? Could you? She signs the paper, addresses it simply "War and Navy Departments." Walking to her mailbox she feels a storm tugging at the air. Placing the envelope in the mailbox she pauses only slightly then turns. Her heart is a muscle now. The size of a fist, defending the new life beneath it. The first streak of lightning breaks the afternoon. The screen door flaps behind her. Inside, she puts a waltz on the record player and sets to closing windows against a sky that is nearly endless.

Richwood, West Virginia September, 1944 Now, if her sense of direction is sharper, her grasp of geography stronger, it is because of him, his dotted existence across continents, the world. His broken path like pins on a map, planning strategies, the possibilities of place and time. She imagines herself spinning wildly through an empty parking lot, eyes closed, arms stretched into a wingspan, gravel scattering, her balance a practice in perfection until she can sense him, locate him like an ache on the axis of her body, its proximities. In the space of a moment her body will form a faultless halt of motion before him, toe to toe, faces less than inches, their separate breaths forming a single breath. She finds his face in crowded pictures of rowdy squadrons, his voice in noisy poolhalls, his letters among stacks and piles arranged on the post office floor. He writes: I smashed things up terrifically today darling—a train nearly a mile long and full of Italians. I hit every mark like a star. To her there is no longer an atlas that can be trusted, no longer concerns of north, south, longitude, miles. Now there is only vicinities of him, shades of nearness, of distance. A measurement of time and space between their separate skins. Nothing else occurs to her. Years of geography lessons erased. 126

127 1


Berkeley Fiction Review

This Is to Notify You That the Records of the Above Named Veteran Are Complete

her collarbone, eyelid, wrist. She will not tell him what she already knows, what she already feels as a flutter growing beneath her heart. Instead they talk about 4he Cranberry River, they talk about mountains, they talk about home in a way that makes her turn from him with a sadness he cannot understand. When she turns back to him, he touches her face and sees an emptiness there that he recognizes as loss. They cannot know, this boy and girl in the picture, this husband and wife in black and white. He cannot know about the vast deserts of North Africa, the dry sands and the orange skies. She cannot know about the months of waiting while a living body moves inside of her, rolling like a tide. They cannot know that this will be their last image together, this day in April on a sunlit porch. And they could not know about this last night together, his fingers in her knotted hair, the rusty imprint of the swing chain in her palm as she lets go and stands up, as she turns away from him and goes inside to bed.

Richwood, West Virginia November, 1944 Have you ever loved a man? Like death, like the very bones that walk you over this earth? Have you ever watched him from a small distance, the thin skin of his eyelids, the tips of ears translucent and pale in the strange glow of morning, the soles of his feet still dirty with his barefoot days? Have you ever? Could you? She signs the paper, addresses it simply "War and Navy Departments." Walking to her mailbox she feels a storm tugging at the air. Placing the envelope in the mailbox she pauses only slightly then turns. Her heart is a muscle now. The size of a fist, defending the new life beneath it. The first streak of lightning breaks the afternoon. The screen door flaps behind her. Inside, she puts a waltz on the record player and sets to closing windows against a sky that is nearly endless.

Richwood, West Virginia September, 1944 Now, if her sense of direction is sharper, her grasp of geography stronger, it is because of him, his dotted existence across continents, the world. His broken path like pins on a map, planning strategies, the possibilities of place and time. She imagines herself spinning wildly through an empty parking lot, eyes closed, arms stretched into a wingspan, gravel scattering, her balance a practice in perfection until she can sense him, locate him like an ache on the axis of her body, its proximities. In the space of a moment her body will form a faultless halt of motion before him, toe to toe, faces less than inches, their separate breaths forming a single breath. She finds his face in crowded pictures of rowdy squadrons, his voice in noisy poolhalls, his letters among stacks and piles arranged on the post office floor. He writes: I smashed things up terrifically today darling—a train nearly a mile long and full of Italians. I hit every mark like a star. To her there is no longer an atlas that can be trusted, no longer concerns of north, south, longitude, miles. Now there is only vicinities of him, shades of nearness, of distance. A measurement of time and space between their separate skins. Nothing else occurs to her. Years of geography lessons erased. 126

127 1


Cats in Their Summer Dresses

C a t s

i n

T h e i r

S u m m e r

D r e s s e s

Mary M c D e r m o t t

M

y mother bought the rollercoaster as her single act of defiance, and my father put it together because he didn't know how else to top her. It came dismantled in a long flat box—a tangle of thin hollow tubing painted yellow, and a little plywood cart with four wheels. He refused to read directions and jammed all the wrong pieces together, then wrenched them apart and threw them across the yard. I trotted back and forth, retrieving them before an audience of cats, who watched from under the car in the driveway. He set the rollercoaster in the front yard for all the world to see, and claimed the first ride. With his knees jammed up under his chin and his fingers gripping the already splintering cart, he took off, slowly, faster, swaying and lurching, gathering speed, up a little and down a lot, shirt sleeves plastered against his arms, eyes watering, hair flying— until he hit the bottom, and the tall twisting fingers of grass snagged fhe wheels, stopping the cart so abruptly he pitched headlong. He lay still, then rose ponderously, shirt front and knees dark with dew, and handed me the cart. "You be careful. This is not a goddamned toy." He and my mother sat in chairs in the sideyard facing the woods. She would begin by making the drinks in the kitchen, carrying them

128

out on a metal tray advertising Coca-Cola. Later, she would simply bring the bottles out and wedge them into the grass by her chair. They sat all day, till dark and beyond, in two of four aluminumframe beach chairs laced with fraying straps. Mrdmorning, their friends would come. Saturday, Sunday. Some Fridays. They walked from their house down the road, leaving their car behind because they knew when it came time to leave, neither would be able to drive. Like possums they crept in single file with small anxious steps along the verge, buffeted by the rush of traffic, he in the lead with his slicked, black hair and balding head. All summer, the head burned and peeled and grew great brown freckles. She wore glasses and swung her big, white vinyl pocketbook from the crook of her bent arm. They brought their own glasses smeary with fingerprints and lime pulp. When she tripped over the molehills in our yard, he would take her glass. This was the summer of realization that my father would never be published. Having given up, he settled his bulk into the chair that dug itself a little deeper into the yard every time he shifted his weight. He talked only to his male friend, my mother saying nothing one might listen to. She whispered with the other wife who held her pocketbook. All day,, the four of them sat while I rode the raik, over and over. Kids went past on their bikes. They stood on their pedals and coasted, staring at me from closed faces, beautiful with summer dust. Their eyes were bleached a watery blue, and their lips the palest pink. At last I had something to offer, something worthy of them, but they twisted the rollercoaster into one more piece of evidence in my catalogue of weirdness. They watched me over their shoulders as they rode past and never came in. Lonely, I dressed the cat. I stripped Raggedy Anne and pulled her blue-flowered gown over Ambrose's fat, nut-hard head. I pulled his thick, muscular striped arms through the sleeves, and smoothed the great bell of skirt over his kangaroo legs. I kissed him on each cheek, then placed him on the cart at the top of the ride, and shoved it down the rails before he could jump. He dug his claws into the plywood, and swayed and trembled, black eyes glowing and ears flattened against his head, delicate and threatened as moth wings. 129


Cats in Their Summer Dresses

C a t s

i n

T h e i r

S u m m e r

D r e s s e s

Mary M c D e r m o t t

M

y mother bought the rollercoaster as her single act of defiance, and my father put it together because he didn't know how else to top her. It came dismantled in a long flat box—a tangle of thin hollow tubing painted yellow, and a little plywood cart with four wheels. He refused to read directions and jammed all the wrong pieces together, then wrenched them apart and threw them across the yard. I trotted back and forth, retrieving them before an audience of cats, who watched from under the car in the driveway. He set the rollercoaster in the front yard for all the world to see, and claimed the first ride. With his knees jammed up under his chin and his fingers gripping the already splintering cart, he took off, slowly, faster, swaying and lurching, gathering speed, up a little and down a lot, shirt sleeves plastered against his arms, eyes watering, hair flying— until he hit the bottom, and the tall twisting fingers of grass snagged fhe wheels, stopping the cart so abruptly he pitched headlong. He lay still, then rose ponderously, shirt front and knees dark with dew, and handed me the cart. "You be careful. This is not a goddamned toy." He and my mother sat in chairs in the sideyard facing the woods. She would begin by making the drinks in the kitchen, carrying them

128

out on a metal tray advertising Coca-Cola. Later, she would simply bring the bottles out and wedge them into the grass by her chair. They sat all day, till dark and beyond, in two of four aluminumframe beach chairs laced with fraying straps. Mrdmorning, their friends would come. Saturday, Sunday. Some Fridays. They walked from their house down the road, leaving their car behind because they knew when it came time to leave, neither would be able to drive. Like possums they crept in single file with small anxious steps along the verge, buffeted by the rush of traffic, he in the lead with his slicked, black hair and balding head. All summer, the head burned and peeled and grew great brown freckles. She wore glasses and swung her big, white vinyl pocketbook from the crook of her bent arm. They brought their own glasses smeary with fingerprints and lime pulp. When she tripped over the molehills in our yard, he would take her glass. This was the summer of realization that my father would never be published. Having given up, he settled his bulk into the chair that dug itself a little deeper into the yard every time he shifted his weight. He talked only to his male friend, my mother saying nothing one might listen to. She whispered with the other wife who held her pocketbook. All day,, the four of them sat while I rode the raik, over and over. Kids went past on their bikes. They stood on their pedals and coasted, staring at me from closed faces, beautiful with summer dust. Their eyes were bleached a watery blue, and their lips the palest pink. At last I had something to offer, something worthy of them, but they twisted the rollercoaster into one more piece of evidence in my catalogue of weirdness. They watched me over their shoulders as they rode past and never came in. Lonely, I dressed the cat. I stripped Raggedy Anne and pulled her blue-flowered gown over Ambrose's fat, nut-hard head. I pulled his thick, muscular striped arms through the sleeves, and smoothed the great bell of skirt over his kangaroo legs. I kissed him on each cheek, then placed him on the cart at the top of the ride, and shoved it down the rails before he could jump. He dug his claws into the plywood, and swayed and trembled, black eyes glowing and ears flattened against his head, delicate and threatened as moth wings. 129


Berkeley Fiction Review At the bottom, he fell over onto his side and looked at me with solemn reproach. He rose very slowly and began to walk away, knees pumping high to avoid treading up his skirt and yanking his head down. He mastered the art of dresses quickly, and was around to the sideyard before I remembered my parents sat there. My father did not take lightly to anyone insulting his cats. I raced after him—but too late. My mother pointed, her face suffusing in sudden knowledge that this would be the most perfect moment of redemption in her life with my father. She.said, "Cats in their summer dresses." Words which bowled my father over. He had read the story in The New Yorker^ years before my mother or the beach chairs, when his own limitations lay yet beyond his sight. He called it the last great short story written in America; it was the epitome of all that repeatedly passed him by. He stared at her, rakish with her put-down, her split-second cleverness. His eyes turned expectant and eager as if the next instant were not already formed, and there existed the certainty of something finer. We left the rollercoaster out all summer. The rain fell heavily, and the yellow paint dulled and blistered. It shattered into a thousand tiny specks that littered the tall grass. The cart warped, the wheels rusted. I showed it to my father. "What dip! you do to it?" . "Nothing, Daddy, I didn't do anything. It just won't go." He kicked at the rollercoaster. "Cheap crap." He turned on my mother. "What the hell did you buy it for? It's cheap crap." He went back to his chair. At dusk, my mother and I went wordlessly to the front and dragged the rollercoaster to its grave at the edge of the woods. Here the wild grasses would embrace and strangle the corroded tubing, hiding it forever.

M e r g e f o r m

Trevor Perrin avier begins to suspect he is losing his wife. He doesn't know how this began, or when, or why. Whatever has come between them moved too quickly for him to notice. He suspects that if hsacicaught it in time he could have dealt with it easily, but now he he h^9 doesn't know what to do. All he knows is that there is a distance in her voice and her soft polite laughter at his jokes, that there is a coolness becoming a coldness in the way her eyes mock him when he talks. But these are subtle things, things that evaporate when Javier tries to wrap them in the thick stuff of words and bring them to her, and her eyes gleam brighter and she just laughs at him and tells him, I still love you honey, don't worry, Everything's the same, and everything is the same, but the marrow's been sucked out of itt the meaning;'s been sucked out of it like the marrow from , but any traces of meaning or passion have been sucked out of their marriage likeloi'asdflkjasdf ;ojasdgJO

FUCK! Tracey pounds her keyboard in frustration and then slumps back, 130

131


Berkeley Fiction Review At the bottom, he fell over onto his side and looked at me with solemn reproach. He rose very slowly and began to walk away, knees pumping high to avoid treading up his skirt and yanking his head down. He mastered the art of dresses quickly, and was around to the sideyard before I remembered my parents sat there. My father did not take lightly to anyone insulting his cats. I raced after him—but too late. My mother pointed, her face suffusing in sudden knowledge that this would be the most perfect moment of redemption in her life with my father. She.said, "Cats in their summer dresses." Words which bowled my father over. He had read the story in The New Yorker^ years before my mother or the beach chairs, when his own limitations lay yet beyond his sight. He called it the last great short story written in America; it was the epitome of all that repeatedly passed him by. He stared at her, rakish with her put-down, her split-second cleverness. His eyes turned expectant and eager as if the next instant were not already formed, and there existed the certainty of something finer. We left the rollercoaster out all summer. The rain fell heavily, and the yellow paint dulled and blistered. It shattered into a thousand tiny specks that littered the tall grass. The cart warped, the wheels rusted. I showed it to my father. "What dip! you do to it?" . "Nothing, Daddy, I didn't do anything. It just won't go." He kicked at the rollercoaster. "Cheap crap." He turned on my mother. "What the hell did you buy it for? It's cheap crap." He went back to his chair. At dusk, my mother and I went wordlessly to the front and dragged the rollercoaster to its grave at the edge of the woods. Here the wild grasses would embrace and strangle the corroded tubing, hiding it forever.

M e r g e f o r m

Trevor Perrin avier begins to suspect he is losing his wife. He doesn't know how this began, or when, or why. Whatever has come between them moved too quickly for him to notice. He suspects that if hsacicaught it in time he could have dealt with it easily, but now he he h^9 doesn't know what to do. All he knows is that there is a distance in her voice and her soft polite laughter at his jokes, that there is a coolness becoming a coldness in the way her eyes mock him when he talks. But these are subtle things, things that evaporate when Javier tries to wrap them in the thick stuff of words and bring them to her, and her eyes gleam brighter and she just laughs at him and tells him, I still love you honey, don't worry, Everything's the same, and everything is the same, but the marrow's been sucked out of itt the meaning;'s been sucked out of it like the marrow from , but any traces of meaning or passion have been sucked out of their marriage likeloi'asdflkjasdf ;ojasdgJO

FUCK! Tracey pounds her keyboard in frustration and then slumps back, 130

131


Berkeley Fiction Review thinking: Fuck this shit And that's all she can think as she buries the heels of her palms into her eyes and blurry-red blood phases and fuses around her "Fuck this shit fuck this shit fuck this shit fuck this shit fuck this shitfuckthishishitfuckthishsithsihtishflk: and looks up, cellular phosphene globs of green and purple swimming around her as she peers blurry-eyed at her alarm clock: 2:53 AM in tranquil turqoise neon. Everything around her aches late-night white and vibrates. Her computer hums tunelessly at her, her words grinning like teeth. Cramped little crippled" words. She reads them back, little stunted runted sentences that it took her almost an hour to write and rewrite and rethink and arrange.... And they're wrong. Somehow. They don't flow or are too long or cramped or not in the right order, or something somewhere somewhy and it pisses her off because she knows she has this inside her, a delicate fine tracery of thought and sense and emotion but it's shape is too specific, too embedded and laced through her mind and when she goes to peel it out no matter how carefully she tries the fragile strands snap and twist and tangle and when she lays it out bare on the sterile sheen of paper it's just a slight twisted matted wispishness, like when she was in fourth grade and tried to take a beautiful perfect spider web to show her mother, and when she had peeled it from the dry rotted wood of the old barn she had nothing that was worth showing at all. She hates words, hates their rigid stubborness, hates sentences and paragraphs, with their inconceivable complexities of ordering and structure and permutation. She's starting to hate writing, she realizes, hate the endless diving and diving into her head for things that are only tenuously there to begin with. But most of all, and definitely, she hates her writing class, hates the pretty muted poignancies of the women and the sheer dumbfuckedness of the men, hates having to lap up the cum from the literary masturbations of English honors students and spit up lukewarm praise. She knows she's better than them, but somehow.. .somehow, she thinks... I don't know. She doesn't know. So ShiftPgUpPgUpDelete and she wipes the smile off her computer's 132 ILL

Mergeform face. It just hums empty and tunelessly to her, so she switches it off and slumps back in her chair, alone with night and bright white light, and thinks about all the aforementioned things she hates. And after sitting a while, she grows tired of that and turns off the lights and collapses into her bed. And after laying there a while, her world goes dark and„soft and she falls asleep. And after sleeping a while, she starts to dream. And it goes a little something like this:

When the brushed aluminum counter has been swabbed down and the last glossy plastic table is wiped greasy clean and the last fleck of lettuce is picked from the floor and the floor itself has been mopped damp and the lightsheet behind the counter that illuminates the letters and numbers that give the prices of the various sandwiches and Valu-meals that are sold at QuickiBurger has been turned off, then and only then does Manny call out to Tina in the back who is still making cleaning noises with the cooking utensils: "All right, I'm taking off," he calls. "See you tomorrow, Manny...." "Night, Tina." And he pushes the door open and is out into the sweet warm pollution wash of Western Avenue, soft ruffling convection currents from cars sweeping past and the sidewalk sparkling in the pink haze of L.A. twilight. It's this in-between time Manny likes best. He likes the day least, with the sky glaring off all the cracks and faults and cheapness of this sprawl of stucco and concrete and blazing off the cars hunkered down like android cattle in sunsoaked asphalt meadows. He enjoys the night in its own way: the streetlights and storelights and headlights cast their own chiaroscuro topologies on the city, and for awhile at least everything has a magical-brilliance, an intensity, but it's a promise that is never kept and only too soon it's too late and dark and quiet, only the occasional white paper bag ghosting these streets and the streetlights buzzing above. But the late afternoon, when the schools and businesses gush their human element back into the world and the streets and the sidewalks

133


Berkeley Fiction Review thinking: Fuck this shit And that's all she can think as she buries the heels of her palms into her eyes and blurry-red blood phases and fuses around her "Fuck this shit fuck this shit fuck this shit fuck this shit fuck this shitfuckthishishitfuckthishsithsihtishflk: and looks up, cellular phosphene globs of green and purple swimming around her as she peers blurry-eyed at her alarm clock: 2:53 AM in tranquil turqoise neon. Everything around her aches late-night white and vibrates. Her computer hums tunelessly at her, her words grinning like teeth. Cramped little crippled" words. She reads them back, little stunted runted sentences that it took her almost an hour to write and rewrite and rethink and arrange.... And they're wrong. Somehow. They don't flow or are too long or cramped or not in the right order, or something somewhere somewhy and it pisses her off because she knows she has this inside her, a delicate fine tracery of thought and sense and emotion but it's shape is too specific, too embedded and laced through her mind and when she goes to peel it out no matter how carefully she tries the fragile strands snap and twist and tangle and when she lays it out bare on the sterile sheen of paper it's just a slight twisted matted wispishness, like when she was in fourth grade and tried to take a beautiful perfect spider web to show her mother, and when she had peeled it from the dry rotted wood of the old barn she had nothing that was worth showing at all. She hates words, hates their rigid stubborness, hates sentences and paragraphs, with their inconceivable complexities of ordering and structure and permutation. She's starting to hate writing, she realizes, hate the endless diving and diving into her head for things that are only tenuously there to begin with. But most of all, and definitely, she hates her writing class, hates the pretty muted poignancies of the women and the sheer dumbfuckedness of the men, hates having to lap up the cum from the literary masturbations of English honors students and spit up lukewarm praise. She knows she's better than them, but somehow.. .somehow, she thinks... I don't know. She doesn't know. So ShiftPgUpPgUpDelete and she wipes the smile off her computer's 132 ILL

Mergeform face. It just hums empty and tunelessly to her, so she switches it off and slumps back in her chair, alone with night and bright white light, and thinks about all the aforementioned things she hates. And after sitting a while, she grows tired of that and turns off the lights and collapses into her bed. And after laying there a while, her world goes dark and„soft and she falls asleep. And after sleeping a while, she starts to dream. And it goes a little something like this:

When the brushed aluminum counter has been swabbed down and the last glossy plastic table is wiped greasy clean and the last fleck of lettuce is picked from the floor and the floor itself has been mopped damp and the lightsheet behind the counter that illuminates the letters and numbers that give the prices of the various sandwiches and Valu-meals that are sold at QuickiBurger has been turned off, then and only then does Manny call out to Tina in the back who is still making cleaning noises with the cooking utensils: "All right, I'm taking off," he calls. "See you tomorrow, Manny...." "Night, Tina." And he pushes the door open and is out into the sweet warm pollution wash of Western Avenue, soft ruffling convection currents from cars sweeping past and the sidewalk sparkling in the pink haze of L.A. twilight. It's this in-between time Manny likes best. He likes the day least, with the sky glaring off all the cracks and faults and cheapness of this sprawl of stucco and concrete and blazing off the cars hunkered down like android cattle in sunsoaked asphalt meadows. He enjoys the night in its own way: the streetlights and storelights and headlights cast their own chiaroscuro topologies on the city, and for awhile at least everything has a magical-brilliance, an intensity, but it's a promise that is never kept and only too soon it's too late and dark and quiet, only the occasional white paper bag ghosting these streets and the streetlights buzzing above. But the late afternoon, when the schools and businesses gush their human element back into the world and the streets and the sidewalks

133


Berkeley Fiction Review swell and swirl with people giddy at the simple fact of life and a few hour's respite before the machinery engages and sucks them up again, and everything is close and cozy and comfortable so that you remember every lazy afternoon you've ever had, the sweet poignancy of it all, and, and— Lost in contemplation, Manny doesn't see Kendra Kern come out of the drug store on 13th street, carrying so many packages she can barely see above them. They collide, tumbling her packages to the sidewalk. "Oh, hey, I'm sorry," Manny says. He helps her pick the packages up. "No problem," Kendra says sweetly. "You okay?" Manny asks. "Yeah. Thanks," Kendra says. She thinks he's a fucking dumbass. A moment of assesment ensues: Manny is shortish but tan and smooth-skinned and athletically built. His face has a handsome delicacy that goes over well with the ladies, and a cheery smile that evidences his open-mindedness and honest concern for others. He is well-liked by everyone except the people who don't like anyone, and they hate him. Kendra is not as attractive as Manny, though she would actually be a fairly good looking girl if she took a little better care of herself and stopped wearing all those baggy boy's clothes, her Grandmother often tells her. It's just that her everpresent ironic smirk and sharp-tongued witticisms tend to overshadow most other things about her, and though it's fairly obvious that underneath her sarcasm and cynicism is a sensitive and romantic and slightly undernourished soul, few people have ever bothered to delve that far. Unlike Manny, Kendra is not especially preoccupied with the city around her. If pressed, she would eventually admit that the evening was, in fact, her favorite time, but she appreciates it in a much more subtle, implicit, and grudging fashion. She's liked, but not well-liked. Anyway, nothing clicks and she moves along. At 12th street, Kendra turns into a mazelike estuary of cheap pastel suburbia. She drops off some of her packages (each containing several hundred dollars worth of hashish and hallucinogens) at Jerry's place and the rest at Cornelius's, then heads back to her Grandmother's house.

134

Mergefbrm Her Grandmother's house is tiny and dark and cozy and cluttered inside, pregnant and mysterious with rugs and vases and paintings, mementos of the Mother country. Kendra finds her Grandmother in the kitchen, chopping vegetables into a pot of something steaming and delicious. Over dinner, Kendra recounts the events of her day to her, and her Grandmother listens, nodding gently and supping her soup, and says not a ..word. Later, when Kendra is curled into bed, her Grandmother enters and rustles over her, brushes her hair aside and kisses her softly on the forehead. "Could you tell me a story, Grandma?" Despite herself she sounds small and soft and she shivers a little, under the covers. Kendra scoots aside, and her Grandma sits down, and speaks. And her voice comes wrinkled and worn and woven, like the wind or the rain or the flowing rivers... "A long time ago, I knew a friend of your father's. His name was Javier. He was a simple man, honest andfriendlyand unassuming. He was somewhat shy, as I remember, but he possessed a solidity and warmth of character that couldn't be faked, and at the end of the day, when the men washed the grease and grime from their faces and brushed themselves off and clapped each other on the back and said with mock seriousness, as they were wont to do in those days, "You're a good man, Dave" or Bob or Bill or Marvin, when they said this to Javier they meant it maybe a little more than usual. "Every day, Javier woke up at six. He would ponder the pale smoothness of his wife's back for a moment, then creep into the shower, trying not to wake her. After that, with the leaden sky lightening and the world rumbling awake all around him, Marvin would pick him up and they would drive to work, winding through neighborhoods of tiny houses and barred windows and cars rusting to death on blocks in small driveways until they hit the industrial district, passing by the DriveThrus and Taquerias that crusted it like barnacles and into a larger, corporate version of suburbia: broad quiet streets and broad, quiet, beigebox buildings and small green lawns that only the gardeners would ever walk upon. At the end of one of these a sign said, "Thompson Plastics Manufacturing," and they would park and enter through the back entrance. 135


Berkeley Fiction Review swell and swirl with people giddy at the simple fact of life and a few hour's respite before the machinery engages and sucks them up again, and everything is close and cozy and comfortable so that you remember every lazy afternoon you've ever had, the sweet poignancy of it all, and, and— Lost in contemplation, Manny doesn't see Kendra Kern come out of the drug store on 13th street, carrying so many packages she can barely see above them. They collide, tumbling her packages to the sidewalk. "Oh, hey, I'm sorry," Manny says. He helps her pick the packages up. "No problem," Kendra says sweetly. "You okay?" Manny asks. "Yeah. Thanks," Kendra says. She thinks he's a fucking dumbass. A moment of assesment ensues: Manny is shortish but tan and smooth-skinned and athletically built. His face has a handsome delicacy that goes over well with the ladies, and a cheery smile that evidences his open-mindedness and honest concern for others. He is well-liked by everyone except the people who don't like anyone, and they hate him. Kendra is not as attractive as Manny, though she would actually be a fairly good looking girl if she took a little better care of herself and stopped wearing all those baggy boy's clothes, her Grandmother often tells her. It's just that her everpresent ironic smirk and sharp-tongued witticisms tend to overshadow most other things about her, and though it's fairly obvious that underneath her sarcasm and cynicism is a sensitive and romantic and slightly undernourished soul, few people have ever bothered to delve that far. Unlike Manny, Kendra is not especially preoccupied with the city around her. If pressed, she would eventually admit that the evening was, in fact, her favorite time, but she appreciates it in a much more subtle, implicit, and grudging fashion. She's liked, but not well-liked. Anyway, nothing clicks and she moves along. At 12th street, Kendra turns into a mazelike estuary of cheap pastel suburbia. She drops off some of her packages (each containing several hundred dollars worth of hashish and hallucinogens) at Jerry's place and the rest at Cornelius's, then heads back to her Grandmother's house.

134

Mergefbrm Her Grandmother's house is tiny and dark and cozy and cluttered inside, pregnant and mysterious with rugs and vases and paintings, mementos of the Mother country. Kendra finds her Grandmother in the kitchen, chopping vegetables into a pot of something steaming and delicious. Over dinner, Kendra recounts the events of her day to her, and her Grandmother listens, nodding gently and supping her soup, and says not a ..word. Later, when Kendra is curled into bed, her Grandmother enters and rustles over her, brushes her hair aside and kisses her softly on the forehead. "Could you tell me a story, Grandma?" Despite herself she sounds small and soft and she shivers a little, under the covers. Kendra scoots aside, and her Grandma sits down, and speaks. And her voice comes wrinkled and worn and woven, like the wind or the rain or the flowing rivers... "A long time ago, I knew a friend of your father's. His name was Javier. He was a simple man, honest andfriendlyand unassuming. He was somewhat shy, as I remember, but he possessed a solidity and warmth of character that couldn't be faked, and at the end of the day, when the men washed the grease and grime from their faces and brushed themselves off and clapped each other on the back and said with mock seriousness, as they were wont to do in those days, "You're a good man, Dave" or Bob or Bill or Marvin, when they said this to Javier they meant it maybe a little more than usual. "Every day, Javier woke up at six. He would ponder the pale smoothness of his wife's back for a moment, then creep into the shower, trying not to wake her. After that, with the leaden sky lightening and the world rumbling awake all around him, Marvin would pick him up and they would drive to work, winding through neighborhoods of tiny houses and barred windows and cars rusting to death on blocks in small driveways until they hit the industrial district, passing by the DriveThrus and Taquerias that crusted it like barnacles and into a larger, corporate version of suburbia: broad quiet streets and broad, quiet, beigebox buildings and small green lawns that only the gardeners would ever walk upon. At the end of one of these a sign said, "Thompson Plastics Manufacturing," and they would park and enter through the back entrance. 135


Berkeley Fiction Review "The factory floor would smell warm and greasy, full of grindings and chuggings and bustling with peoplestriding purposefully and forklifts beeping and wheeling in and out, cluttered with a chaotic exuberance of mold racks, tool benches and grinders, tables and wooden pallets, feed hoppers. "Whatsup Javier." "Hey, how's it going." Javier ambles through... Javier had worked at Thompson Plastics Manufacturing for seven years. He had met his wife there. His charges were the twelve injection molding machines lined up against the back wall, massive assemblages of steel and pistons intricately inlaid with valves and dials and dripping with pipes and hoses that jerked and quivered as the machines ran. The mold was in the middle, each half bolted to one of the massive platens, sliding open and closed along smooth steel poles slathered with white grease as the hydraulic ram pumped and hissed the moving platen forward and back and the helically flighted reciprocating injector screw sucked granulated thermoplastic from the feed hopper through the heater bands that lined the extruder barrel and then drove the molten material forward into the steel cavity that would cool and define it and then pull open, triggering the ejector rods which would punch the freshly-formed plastic progeny from its womb to tumble down a cardboard ramp where a blue-aproned woman would cut the runners off and package it. Javier and Marvin are molding technicians. They troubleshoot the machines when something goes wrong, and are responsible for all mold changes. They use a track-mounted crane that runs the length of the molding line to extract the old molds like rotten teeth and insert new ones,, and otherwise are responsible for whatever it takes to keep the machines running. It's a good job, good pay, interesting work. But as the day waxes and wanes, and melts and merges with every other day before it, Javier becomes aware of a subtle, sour emotion spreading through the lower levels of his consciousness like toxic groundwater. Not pain or anguish or fear or loathing but something quieter and deeper .and more numbing than all of those, an emotion that aches like a torn muscle and swells like a lump in his throat and spreads open and empty before him like the deep end of the swimming pool next door, when he was five. 136

Mergefbrm Javier suspects that he is losing his wife. And it's nothing definable but it's everything that isn't and he is lost, lost in imagining how it once was and how it could be different and would be, his mind detached and circling itself, feedback of input to output to input and back again, smoothing and overlaying fiction and reality until he's no longer really even sure of what has or hasn't been said, lifetimes microcosmed in the seconds before Marvin calls out, from two machines dawn: "Hey Javier, you trying to give me a suntan over there?" and Javier jolts up, and just grins sheepishly and flicks off #9's service light as his fantasies and fears submerge, but only for a moment only for an instant, and already he can feel them swarming and writhing in the dark edges of his mind just waiting, just waiting... It's like that all day, distant and dreamy and worried until the bell rings and his shift is over, and even as he's cleaning up in the bathroom he feels his stomach tighten and his cheeks flush and he walks out toward the parking lot where swing shift is already milling around. Her eyes flick at him only once as he approaches and kisses her on the cheek. "Bye, honey," but isn't there just a trace of singsong in her voice and a slight mirthful dance in her eyes? Doesn't he hear her voice lilting and laughing in elastic tension with the other men as he walks away? Marvin drives him home. They talk, but his worry drags at his thoughts like an anchor. "You feelin' ok, man? you been seeming kinda down today." "Yeah. I'm just tired—" "You got problems with the little lady or what?" Javier changes the subject. After Marvin drops him off, he wanders the rooms of their tiny house, aimless, as if somehow somewhere he will find something that can explain their relationship. He finds leftover tuna, and makes a sandwich. Afterwards, overcome by a sudden dreary exhaustion, he turns on the TV and collapses in its glossy plastic babble. He drinks beers one after another until he is heady with them and doesn't even care what he's watching: something cheap and adolescent and brightly-colored, the whole experiential spectrum of youth plasticized pasteurized pack137


Berkeley Fiction Review "The factory floor would smell warm and greasy, full of grindings and chuggings and bustling with peoplestriding purposefully and forklifts beeping and wheeling in and out, cluttered with a chaotic exuberance of mold racks, tool benches and grinders, tables and wooden pallets, feed hoppers. "Whatsup Javier." "Hey, how's it going." Javier ambles through... Javier had worked at Thompson Plastics Manufacturing for seven years. He had met his wife there. His charges were the twelve injection molding machines lined up against the back wall, massive assemblages of steel and pistons intricately inlaid with valves and dials and dripping with pipes and hoses that jerked and quivered as the machines ran. The mold was in the middle, each half bolted to one of the massive platens, sliding open and closed along smooth steel poles slathered with white grease as the hydraulic ram pumped and hissed the moving platen forward and back and the helically flighted reciprocating injector screw sucked granulated thermoplastic from the feed hopper through the heater bands that lined the extruder barrel and then drove the molten material forward into the steel cavity that would cool and define it and then pull open, triggering the ejector rods which would punch the freshly-formed plastic progeny from its womb to tumble down a cardboard ramp where a blue-aproned woman would cut the runners off and package it. Javier and Marvin are molding technicians. They troubleshoot the machines when something goes wrong, and are responsible for all mold changes. They use a track-mounted crane that runs the length of the molding line to extract the old molds like rotten teeth and insert new ones,, and otherwise are responsible for whatever it takes to keep the machines running. It's a good job, good pay, interesting work. But as the day waxes and wanes, and melts and merges with every other day before it, Javier becomes aware of a subtle, sour emotion spreading through the lower levels of his consciousness like toxic groundwater. Not pain or anguish or fear or loathing but something quieter and deeper .and more numbing than all of those, an emotion that aches like a torn muscle and swells like a lump in his throat and spreads open and empty before him like the deep end of the swimming pool next door, when he was five. 136

Mergefbrm Javier suspects that he is losing his wife. And it's nothing definable but it's everything that isn't and he is lost, lost in imagining how it once was and how it could be different and would be, his mind detached and circling itself, feedback of input to output to input and back again, smoothing and overlaying fiction and reality until he's no longer really even sure of what has or hasn't been said, lifetimes microcosmed in the seconds before Marvin calls out, from two machines dawn: "Hey Javier, you trying to give me a suntan over there?" and Javier jolts up, and just grins sheepishly and flicks off #9's service light as his fantasies and fears submerge, but only for a moment only for an instant, and already he can feel them swarming and writhing in the dark edges of his mind just waiting, just waiting... It's like that all day, distant and dreamy and worried until the bell rings and his shift is over, and even as he's cleaning up in the bathroom he feels his stomach tighten and his cheeks flush and he walks out toward the parking lot where swing shift is already milling around. Her eyes flick at him only once as he approaches and kisses her on the cheek. "Bye, honey," but isn't there just a trace of singsong in her voice and a slight mirthful dance in her eyes? Doesn't he hear her voice lilting and laughing in elastic tension with the other men as he walks away? Marvin drives him home. They talk, but his worry drags at his thoughts like an anchor. "You feelin' ok, man? you been seeming kinda down today." "Yeah. I'm just tired—" "You got problems with the little lady or what?" Javier changes the subject. After Marvin drops him off, he wanders the rooms of their tiny house, aimless, as if somehow somewhere he will find something that can explain their relationship. He finds leftover tuna, and makes a sandwich. Afterwards, overcome by a sudden dreary exhaustion, he turns on the TV and collapses in its glossy plastic babble. He drinks beers one after another until he is heady with them and doesn't even care what he's watching: something cheap and adolescent and brightly-colored, the whole experiential spectrum of youth plasticized pasteurized pack137


Berkeley Fiction Review aged in easy-to-swallow capsule form with blonde-boy beach-happy guitar licks and raucous kids laughing so you know its funny saying yo so hey say no ok yeah now yeah go just salivate like the little doggy you are and they're all happy they're all friends bouncing around their simplified lives like discrete atoms of quantized perkiness. Javier watches glaze-eyed and slackjawed. Inert... "So," Mrs. Ramsey says, peering down through her glasses at the list in front of her. "Are you ready to give your presentation, Manny?" "Why of course, Mrs. Ramsey," Manny says, lying through his teeth. His presentation was today?! His mind begins working overtime: "It's just that, well — " Mrs. Ramsey fixes him with a stern gaze. All eyes fall on him. "You see, Mrs. Ramsey, um—" and that's when the bell rings, loud and clear. Manny lets out a sigh of relief as all around him kids bustle out of their seats. "OK, Mr. Johnston, looks like you got lucky this time, but you better be ready first thing tomorrow," she says with a stern warmth. "Sure thing, Mrs. Ramsey," Manny beams at her, and then bustles out into the mulling, swirling crowd of day's end: low-lying brick-block buildings and sunny splendor, kids laughing and joking as they drain away to the parking lots. "Whatsup Manny!" Manny turns around to find his best friend, Tony Chavez, walking towards him. "Hey Chaz, how's it going?" "Pretty good, where you going? "Going home." "Wanna give me a ride?" "Sure." Chaz and Manny had been friends since first grade. Chaz had an easy-going affability that won over all who knew him. They began walking toward Manny's car. "So, man, who you gonna ask to the Formal?" Chaz asked. "Dude, I don't know. I'm thinking maybe either Shelley or Linda." "What about Michaela?" "I don't know." "Man, I heard she's got the hots for you," Chaz said in a sing-song. "Come on, who's your lucky lady?"

138

Mergeform "No way I'm telling you!" Chaz exclaimed. "You know every time I tell you that you just go and try to steal my women!" "Hey, that was a long time ago." Manny grinned and unlocked his car doors. "So you going to Ben's tonight?" Chaz asked. "I dunno. I got rehearsal till 10, and we usually run late." "Man, this is gonna be the biggest party of the year! When are you guys opening?" "Two weeks—" "Two weeks!? You got two weeks to rehearse! You gotta come tonight, man! There's gonna be music, beer, muchachas—" Manny keyed the ignition and pulled out. "Yeah, I'll be t h e r e - " "All right!" Chaz grinned and turned on the radio, started flicking stations: "Of journalism at the Univ—" "Con otra persona y todo—" "Problem is not your husband's view of—" and settled on a distant oldies station whose soft, melancholy tunes gusted and faded like the rain pelting her bedroom windows. Kendra turned from the radio back to her workbench. She had just picked up her chisel and resumed meticulously trimming one of the wooden components of her latest mailbomb when she noticed, out of the corner of her eye, a man standing forlornly on the sidewalk. She tried to make out more but couldn't through the rain swirled glass. "Hmmm," she thought. She padded out of her room and to the front door on slippered feet, and opened the door to the wet needletinkling rushing of rain, the smell of damp earth and concrete. "Hey, you!" she called. The man slowly turned his gaze to her. He was of medium height but powerfully built, laced head-to-toe in armor of leather strips and banded plates.. His face, she could tell from even this far away, was majestic, noble, almost godly, and yet in the strength and set of his jaw and high forehead, his muscular neck and the wet mane of hair that soaked and tumbled down the side of his face, there was something of the Beast: of the horse or the oxen, and in his eyes, though possessed of a dreamy, distant quality, there also shone through a hardness, a strength, resolute and unbending, an implacability of will that could never be halted, could never be broken. 139


Berkeley Fiction Review aged in easy-to-swallow capsule form with blonde-boy beach-happy guitar licks and raucous kids laughing so you know its funny saying yo so hey say no ok yeah now yeah go just salivate like the little doggy you are and they're all happy they're all friends bouncing around their simplified lives like discrete atoms of quantized perkiness. Javier watches glaze-eyed and slackjawed. Inert... "So," Mrs. Ramsey says, peering down through her glasses at the list in front of her. "Are you ready to give your presentation, Manny?" "Why of course, Mrs. Ramsey," Manny says, lying through his teeth. His presentation was today?! His mind begins working overtime: "It's just that, well — " Mrs. Ramsey fixes him with a stern gaze. All eyes fall on him. "You see, Mrs. Ramsey, um—" and that's when the bell rings, loud and clear. Manny lets out a sigh of relief as all around him kids bustle out of their seats. "OK, Mr. Johnston, looks like you got lucky this time, but you better be ready first thing tomorrow," she says with a stern warmth. "Sure thing, Mrs. Ramsey," Manny beams at her, and then bustles out into the mulling, swirling crowd of day's end: low-lying brick-block buildings and sunny splendor, kids laughing and joking as they drain away to the parking lots. "Whatsup Manny!" Manny turns around to find his best friend, Tony Chavez, walking towards him. "Hey Chaz, how's it going?" "Pretty good, where you going? "Going home." "Wanna give me a ride?" "Sure." Chaz and Manny had been friends since first grade. Chaz had an easy-going affability that won over all who knew him. They began walking toward Manny's car. "So, man, who you gonna ask to the Formal?" Chaz asked. "Dude, I don't know. I'm thinking maybe either Shelley or Linda." "What about Michaela?" "I don't know." "Man, I heard she's got the hots for you," Chaz said in a sing-song. "Come on, who's your lucky lady?"

138

Mergeform "No way I'm telling you!" Chaz exclaimed. "You know every time I tell you that you just go and try to steal my women!" "Hey, that was a long time ago." Manny grinned and unlocked his car doors. "So you going to Ben's tonight?" Chaz asked. "I dunno. I got rehearsal till 10, and we usually run late." "Man, this is gonna be the biggest party of the year! When are you guys opening?" "Two weeks—" "Two weeks!? You got two weeks to rehearse! You gotta come tonight, man! There's gonna be music, beer, muchachas—" Manny keyed the ignition and pulled out. "Yeah, I'll be t h e r e - " "All right!" Chaz grinned and turned on the radio, started flicking stations: "Of journalism at the Univ—" "Con otra persona y todo—" "Problem is not your husband's view of—" and settled on a distant oldies station whose soft, melancholy tunes gusted and faded like the rain pelting her bedroom windows. Kendra turned from the radio back to her workbench. She had just picked up her chisel and resumed meticulously trimming one of the wooden components of her latest mailbomb when she noticed, out of the corner of her eye, a man standing forlornly on the sidewalk. She tried to make out more but couldn't through the rain swirled glass. "Hmmm," she thought. She padded out of her room and to the front door on slippered feet, and opened the door to the wet needletinkling rushing of rain, the smell of damp earth and concrete. "Hey, you!" she called. The man slowly turned his gaze to her. He was of medium height but powerfully built, laced head-to-toe in armor of leather strips and banded plates.. His face, she could tell from even this far away, was majestic, noble, almost godly, and yet in the strength and set of his jaw and high forehead, his muscular neck and the wet mane of hair that soaked and tumbled down the side of his face, there was something of the Beast: of the horse or the oxen, and in his eyes, though possessed of a dreamy, distant quality, there also shone through a hardness, a strength, resolute and unbending, an implacability of will that could never be halted, could never be broken. 139


Berkeley Fiction Review "What are you doing out there?" she called out, her voice more suspicious-sounding than she would have liked, or meant. His eyes pierced her, ran her through and through, while he regarded this question. "I am searching." His voice was deep and sonorous. Rain ran and dripped and dribbled from his hands, his hair, his armor. "Don't you have anyplace to get out of the rain?" "I am far from home." "Oh, well —come inside then. You'll catch cold." The man obediently came trudging across her Grandmother's lawn and up to the front door. He knelt down before her: "My name is Alexander. Alexander of Macedon." "I'm Kendra." She proffered her hand and he accepted it. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Kendra." "Thanks—um," she glanced away from the intensity of his eyes, "come on inside." Tracey looked up in disgust. It was fifteen minutes before her writing workshop started, but already half a dozen people were scattered around the room, either riffing jivelessly in vain displays of media savvy or rolling their eyes exaggeratedly at those who did. Tracey despised them all, and did not take part. She was still working her way through the story they were going to be discussing that day, a preposterously overwritten, pompously meaningless morass of absurdist vomit entitled "Mergeform." The author, Gordon, was sitting in the other corner of the room, staring blankly at the floor. You excrement, she thought, glaring deep into the depths of his skinny, wasted soul. She wanted to rip out his spine and sodomize him with it, wanted to smash a lead pipe into his teeth and see him stagger back, his mouth a bloody stew of splintered calcium. She savored this for a moment, but then a more pleasant thought ran through her with a shiver of excitement: next week it was her turn to have a story discussed. Tragedy inside of drama wrapped in comedy, words that she had slaved over for weeks, arranged so precisely they rippled and ran like a melody, faded lingering and transient in a flitting intersection of emotional structure, a meshing interlace of amplification and cancellation, prose drawn delicate and fluid as blown glass, fused in the passions of her soul. They would shrug their shoulders, 140

Mergeform toss their hands. What could be said that wasn't obvious? What could be said that wasn't true? Beautiful. Masterly. A work of genius. And she would acknowledge it, if only with a slight nod, or a pitiless laugh, a shade of embarassment, but not the praise, the act, or their filthy hands groping her story's private parts, pulling its beauty apart like butterfly wings, and when they asked her to explain, came to her for answers, when they sought the fount from which such majesty could flow, what then? A shrug at the question's irrelevance, a slight wince at its blunt stupidity. I mean, you could interpret it that way.. .and when she must lower herself to explaining it, another shrug.. .one of her lesser works— an experiment, really... Mr. Lawrence came in then, chuckling amiably. With a sigh, Tracey turned the page and resumed reading: Kendra and Alexander took their mochas to an outside table. The seats were still damp, but the clouds were pulling apart above them, and occasionally warmths of sunshine gleaned through. She had given Alexander some of the baggiest clothes she had stolen from her brothers, but still his taut physique threatened to burst them. Kendra sat quietly for a minute, sipping her mocha and watching him. She had tried explaining his predicament several times already, but she didn't think he quite understood. Even as she watched, his brow was furrowed, his eyes were roaming in deep cogitation, a frown on his face as he struggled to wrap his brain around what she'd said. Finally, he spoke: "So," and then hesitated. "This.. .Knot. That I seek." "Yes?" "Where may it be found?" Kendra sighed. This wasn't working. "It can't, or, at least, not by us—" "It does not exist?" "Well, I mean, I'm not sure exactly. But if it does exist, it's on a higher level of interpretation than we could access." "Ah." He nods knowingly. "Mount Olympus!" "What?" "Mount Olympus. The realm of the Gods!" "No, no—I mean, it's here, I think, we're in it, but the problem is—" She paused. "How do you say? You're not who you're supposed to be—" 141


Berkeley Fiction Review "What are you doing out there?" she called out, her voice more suspicious-sounding than she would have liked, or meant. His eyes pierced her, ran her through and through, while he regarded this question. "I am searching." His voice was deep and sonorous. Rain ran and dripped and dribbled from his hands, his hair, his armor. "Don't you have anyplace to get out of the rain?" "I am far from home." "Oh, well —come inside then. You'll catch cold." The man obediently came trudging across her Grandmother's lawn and up to the front door. He knelt down before her: "My name is Alexander. Alexander of Macedon." "I'm Kendra." She proffered her hand and he accepted it. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Kendra." "Thanks—um," she glanced away from the intensity of his eyes, "come on inside." Tracey looked up in disgust. It was fifteen minutes before her writing workshop started, but already half a dozen people were scattered around the room, either riffing jivelessly in vain displays of media savvy or rolling their eyes exaggeratedly at those who did. Tracey despised them all, and did not take part. She was still working her way through the story they were going to be discussing that day, a preposterously overwritten, pompously meaningless morass of absurdist vomit entitled "Mergeform." The author, Gordon, was sitting in the other corner of the room, staring blankly at the floor. You excrement, she thought, glaring deep into the depths of his skinny, wasted soul. She wanted to rip out his spine and sodomize him with it, wanted to smash a lead pipe into his teeth and see him stagger back, his mouth a bloody stew of splintered calcium. She savored this for a moment, but then a more pleasant thought ran through her with a shiver of excitement: next week it was her turn to have a story discussed. Tragedy inside of drama wrapped in comedy, words that she had slaved over for weeks, arranged so precisely they rippled and ran like a melody, faded lingering and transient in a flitting intersection of emotional structure, a meshing interlace of amplification and cancellation, prose drawn delicate and fluid as blown glass, fused in the passions of her soul. They would shrug their shoulders, 140

Mergeform toss their hands. What could be said that wasn't obvious? What could be said that wasn't true? Beautiful. Masterly. A work of genius. And she would acknowledge it, if only with a slight nod, or a pitiless laugh, a shade of embarassment, but not the praise, the act, or their filthy hands groping her story's private parts, pulling its beauty apart like butterfly wings, and when they asked her to explain, came to her for answers, when they sought the fount from which such majesty could flow, what then? A shrug at the question's irrelevance, a slight wince at its blunt stupidity. I mean, you could interpret it that way.. .and when she must lower herself to explaining it, another shrug.. .one of her lesser works— an experiment, really... Mr. Lawrence came in then, chuckling amiably. With a sigh, Tracey turned the page and resumed reading: Kendra and Alexander took their mochas to an outside table. The seats were still damp, but the clouds were pulling apart above them, and occasionally warmths of sunshine gleaned through. She had given Alexander some of the baggiest clothes she had stolen from her brothers, but still his taut physique threatened to burst them. Kendra sat quietly for a minute, sipping her mocha and watching him. She had tried explaining his predicament several times already, but she didn't think he quite understood. Even as she watched, his brow was furrowed, his eyes were roaming in deep cogitation, a frown on his face as he struggled to wrap his brain around what she'd said. Finally, he spoke: "So," and then hesitated. "This.. .Knot. That I seek." "Yes?" "Where may it be found?" Kendra sighed. This wasn't working. "It can't, or, at least, not by us—" "It does not exist?" "Well, I mean, I'm not sure exactly. But if it does exist, it's on a higher level of interpretation than we could access." "Ah." He nods knowingly. "Mount Olympus!" "What?" "Mount Olympus. The realm of the Gods!" "No, no—I mean, it's here, I think, we're in it, but the problem is—" She paused. "How do you say? You're not who you're supposed to be—" 141


Berkeley Fiction Review "Am I not Alexander the Invincible, son of Zeus himself?" A couple a few tables away turned and stared in grinning amazement. "Yeah, you are, I mean—just keep your voice down, okay?" Kendra leaned back in her chair and exhaled wearily. "Let me just think about this for a minute.. .there's gotta be some way to get you back." Alexander nodded worriedly. Kendra took a sip of her mocha and began drumming her fingers slowly on the table. "Okay...what bothers me most," she began carefully, thinking as she spoke, "is the flagrancy of this. These metaphorical mappings are rarely isomorphic, but this is so absurd as to be almost.. .malicious." Alexander's face darkened: "Well, then it must surely be the work of evil gods!" Kendra paused: "Maybe," she had to admit. He might just be on to something there. "Maybe." "Very well, then. It is settled. I shall find the Gods responsible for this and slay them for depriving me of my destiny!" Alexander stood up as he said this, his voice thundering forth against the cafe walls, his frame quaking with rage. Mrs. Muller clucked critically. "Come on, Manny, put some spirit into it!" "Very well then. It is settled. I shall find the Gods responsible for this and slay them for depriving me of my destiny!" "Can't hear you—" "Very well then, it is settled! I shall find the gods responsible, and slay them, for depriving me of my destiny!" Manny bellowed. Mrs. Muller nodded approvingly, then stepped onto the stage. "That's exactly what I want. Excellent." She turned and addressed the darkened auditorium. "All right kids, gather round." The rest of the cast roused itself and dragged sluggishly closer. "We ran a little late today, I apologize for that, but I think we got a lot done and it's coming along nicely. Monday's rehearsal is going to be the usual time, we'll be working on Act II, so I want you all to come prepared. Good work." And with that they disperse. Walking across the parking lot-to his car, Manny notices the night: warm but just slightly breezy, dark but tinged, somehow, with oranges and blues and reds and purples, laced invisibly with their energy. He enters his car and starts it up. Not even 10:30 by the dash—he guns the engine and accelerates away. But he doesn't turn on the ra142

Mergeform dio. He wants to be alone with his thoughts as he curves through dark suburban streets. They're important tonight, important now: thoughts of the Formal and, more specifically, a girl named Michaela, a girl Manny has known since kindergarten, who floats above the world but remains grounded in it, a girl he can talk to for hours, their conversation a single monologue. When he's with her he feels complete, exalted, extended, as if discovering himself for the first time, as if all he had were virtues but no vices, as if everything inside him was noble, glorious. And tonight, Manny is going to ask her to the Formal. He has to park a block awayfromBen's party—awkwardly angled cars line the road. He hears bass as he approaches. A few kids are lingering outside a side gate, smoking cigarettes and ostensibly charging admission. Manny jokes for a few minutes, then moves past them to the backyard, which is big but packed—must be a couple of hundred kids, and most of them know Manny: He moves in slow brownian motion through the drunken swirl, giddy with the endless, dreamy surging of it all, searching, just searching, for the one person who will make it right. "Manny!" a voice squeals. Manny spins and finds Michaela charging unsteadily at him, flushed and beaming. She hurls her arms around him for a moment, "I'm soooo happy to see you! how are you? how are you doing?! How was rehearsal?" "It was good, it was great," he laughs, feeling her enthusiasm start to bubble up underneath him. "Oh my god, I'm so happy right now, guess what happened today!" "Tell me." "Tony. Asked me. To. The Formal!" Jumping on her words for emphasis, "Can you believe it? I've had a crush on him since sixth grade!" She throws her arms around him again, "Aren't you happy?" And he nods, of course, but it's not him, whatever he was has shrunk, distended, pulled inside and sucked away and now only watches, glazed numb and unthinking, far away from this party and these people, from this girl and this hug that is just arms around rubbered flesh. She's looking into his eyes and maybe she sees it, maybe she sees the wince and the flicker, the sudden retraction. Maybe she chooses to ignore it, maybe she's about to say something but it's too late, already two friends pounce and pull her away. Manny turns from the moving voices and colored lights and begins heading toward the edge of the crowd, plastic cups of 143


Berkeley Fiction Review "Am I not Alexander the Invincible, son of Zeus himself?" A couple a few tables away turned and stared in grinning amazement. "Yeah, you are, I mean—just keep your voice down, okay?" Kendra leaned back in her chair and exhaled wearily. "Let me just think about this for a minute.. .there's gotta be some way to get you back." Alexander nodded worriedly. Kendra took a sip of her mocha and began drumming her fingers slowly on the table. "Okay...what bothers me most," she began carefully, thinking as she spoke, "is the flagrancy of this. These metaphorical mappings are rarely isomorphic, but this is so absurd as to be almost.. .malicious." Alexander's face darkened: "Well, then it must surely be the work of evil gods!" Kendra paused: "Maybe," she had to admit. He might just be on to something there. "Maybe." "Very well, then. It is settled. I shall find the Gods responsible for this and slay them for depriving me of my destiny!" Alexander stood up as he said this, his voice thundering forth against the cafe walls, his frame quaking with rage. Mrs. Muller clucked critically. "Come on, Manny, put some spirit into it!" "Very well then. It is settled. I shall find the Gods responsible for this and slay them for depriving me of my destiny!" "Can't hear you—" "Very well then, it is settled! I shall find the gods responsible, and slay them, for depriving me of my destiny!" Manny bellowed. Mrs. Muller nodded approvingly, then stepped onto the stage. "That's exactly what I want. Excellent." She turned and addressed the darkened auditorium. "All right kids, gather round." The rest of the cast roused itself and dragged sluggishly closer. "We ran a little late today, I apologize for that, but I think we got a lot done and it's coming along nicely. Monday's rehearsal is going to be the usual time, we'll be working on Act II, so I want you all to come prepared. Good work." And with that they disperse. Walking across the parking lot-to his car, Manny notices the night: warm but just slightly breezy, dark but tinged, somehow, with oranges and blues and reds and purples, laced invisibly with their energy. He enters his car and starts it up. Not even 10:30 by the dash—he guns the engine and accelerates away. But he doesn't turn on the ra142

Mergeform dio. He wants to be alone with his thoughts as he curves through dark suburban streets. They're important tonight, important now: thoughts of the Formal and, more specifically, a girl named Michaela, a girl Manny has known since kindergarten, who floats above the world but remains grounded in it, a girl he can talk to for hours, their conversation a single monologue. When he's with her he feels complete, exalted, extended, as if discovering himself for the first time, as if all he had were virtues but no vices, as if everything inside him was noble, glorious. And tonight, Manny is going to ask her to the Formal. He has to park a block awayfromBen's party—awkwardly angled cars line the road. He hears bass as he approaches. A few kids are lingering outside a side gate, smoking cigarettes and ostensibly charging admission. Manny jokes for a few minutes, then moves past them to the backyard, which is big but packed—must be a couple of hundred kids, and most of them know Manny: He moves in slow brownian motion through the drunken swirl, giddy with the endless, dreamy surging of it all, searching, just searching, for the one person who will make it right. "Manny!" a voice squeals. Manny spins and finds Michaela charging unsteadily at him, flushed and beaming. She hurls her arms around him for a moment, "I'm soooo happy to see you! how are you? how are you doing?! How was rehearsal?" "It was good, it was great," he laughs, feeling her enthusiasm start to bubble up underneath him. "Oh my god, I'm so happy right now, guess what happened today!" "Tell me." "Tony. Asked me. To. The Formal!" Jumping on her words for emphasis, "Can you believe it? I've had a crush on him since sixth grade!" She throws her arms around him again, "Aren't you happy?" And he nods, of course, but it's not him, whatever he was has shrunk, distended, pulled inside and sucked away and now only watches, glazed numb and unthinking, far away from this party and these people, from this girl and this hug that is just arms around rubbered flesh. She's looking into his eyes and maybe she sees it, maybe she sees the wince and the flicker, the sudden retraction. Maybe she chooses to ignore it, maybe she's about to say something but it's too late, already two friends pounce and pull her away. Manny turns from the moving voices and colored lights and begins heading toward the edge of the crowd, plastic cups of 143


Berkeley Fiction Review beer and cigarette butts forgotten on a cinderblock wall. Suddenly, someone slaps him on the back. Manny spins and Chaz is there, his eyes rich and half-lidded with pleasure. "Whassup, Manny," he slurs. "I been lookin for ya." "Dude, I just got here. How's it hanging, Chaz." Forced joviality, but it's easier than it sounds and even makes him feel better. Something about Chaz always makes him feel better. "Oh, man, I mean...I mean..." Chaz shakes his head in dreamy amazement—"I mean, I am just fucked up right now, you know that?" "Man, you are fucking gone, Chaz." Chaz closes his eyes and rolls his head languidly in silly agreement. "Yeah...I know...whas wrong witthch you, Manny?" "I'm doing great, Chaz." "No, no, Manny, I know you too good..." Chaz swallowed. "You needa get stoned, Manny, that's, thasz, um.. .thats what you needa do, ok? Come on ..." Ben's room was awash in purple glow and phosporescence and hazed in smoke. Haifa dozen kids reclined against the wall and on the bed and a few chairs, and a bong was slowly tottering around. Manny's first hit was harsh, chemical: he kneeled over and coughed and sputtered while it shivered up and down and then settled over him, coming down like a bubble membrane between him and the world. The second was smooth. The third was smoother, and anything after that was too fast to notice. Too far, too distant. Like watching TV, everything, heady pleasured warmth burning up from the center, hardwired to the pulse of the world and his whole body swelling and distorting in strange rhythmics, thought streams swelling and overflowing their banks, large and liminal. "Turn up the music," he managed to mumble, and collapsed backwards into swarming dark. Someone turned up the music, and guitar note: fading in like a blue-note flame, like a blue powdercable, coiled and burnt and then rising to the pure twist that screels like a knife and twists and cuts, shear quick and blunt with ominous undercurrents, love and soul, now fading glisten cling, cut and shine, flourish, reverb, gone144

Mergeform

to a sunseared desert painwhite temples of fear and a controlled restrained rising fury a strict mechanical vigor of interplay that is black and yellow-white, with a thudding heartbeat, and so we build, 1-2-3-4 and so we build, 1-2 to tigerwood lands of elk and lace, brown, heavy, and quaint with the time, endless gold lyrics, edging to twine, these are the goals of our plainpaper minds, savored, twisted, listed to lines sedate amidst corruption, bereft amidst the free littered with seduction, trash until the sea just moving faster moving forward oh but maybe too fast maybe too forward into purplesplotched organic darkness, blood red mass of tentacles ribbed and wet and thrashing, exploding all around him with the maddening unfocused lucidity of hallucination, stroboscope monsters writhing stark blackwhite all around, beating to a teratogenic symphony and Manny is a soft white woman and it is a giant alien, raping him (strangely pleasurable?!) —but ok, ok, crescendo... ing... gone... the cd changes to oh god melting dissipating mushroom pink apple-green minty Mac taste greenapple tart silversofted and rubbery peppermint-ribbed laughter and manic angel voices peached and poached and applied, glistened green slime and a sweet mushroom slickiness, oboe overtones and fractal-eyed owls, dirt on steel, silting real, and the gulped slaplessness of saltwater, as ribbonous taffies of nebulous gold float through and images, unbidden: an ugly old woman made of clear plastic tubing, sleek and stuffed with brains, while outside her window knights in sil verfoam armor troop 145


Berkeley Fiction Review beer and cigarette butts forgotten on a cinderblock wall. Suddenly, someone slaps him on the back. Manny spins and Chaz is there, his eyes rich and half-lidded with pleasure. "Whassup, Manny," he slurs. "I been lookin for ya." "Dude, I just got here. How's it hanging, Chaz." Forced joviality, but it's easier than it sounds and even makes him feel better. Something about Chaz always makes him feel better. "Oh, man, I mean...I mean..." Chaz shakes his head in dreamy amazement—"I mean, I am just fucked up right now, you know that?" "Man, you are fucking gone, Chaz." Chaz closes his eyes and rolls his head languidly in silly agreement. "Yeah...I know...whas wrong witthch you, Manny?" "I'm doing great, Chaz." "No, no, Manny, I know you too good..." Chaz swallowed. "You needa get stoned, Manny, that's, thasz, um.. .thats what you needa do, ok? Come on ..." Ben's room was awash in purple glow and phosporescence and hazed in smoke. Haifa dozen kids reclined against the wall and on the bed and a few chairs, and a bong was slowly tottering around. Manny's first hit was harsh, chemical: he kneeled over and coughed and sputtered while it shivered up and down and then settled over him, coming down like a bubble membrane between him and the world. The second was smooth. The third was smoother, and anything after that was too fast to notice. Too far, too distant. Like watching TV, everything, heady pleasured warmth burning up from the center, hardwired to the pulse of the world and his whole body swelling and distorting in strange rhythmics, thought streams swelling and overflowing their banks, large and liminal. "Turn up the music," he managed to mumble, and collapsed backwards into swarming dark. Someone turned up the music, and guitar note: fading in like a blue-note flame, like a blue powdercable, coiled and burnt and then rising to the pure twist that screels like a knife and twists and cuts, shear quick and blunt with ominous undercurrents, love and soul, now fading glisten cling, cut and shine, flourish, reverb, gone144

Mergeform

to a sunseared desert painwhite temples of fear and a controlled restrained rising fury a strict mechanical vigor of interplay that is black and yellow-white, with a thudding heartbeat, and so we build, 1-2-3-4 and so we build, 1-2 to tigerwood lands of elk and lace, brown, heavy, and quaint with the time, endless gold lyrics, edging to twine, these are the goals of our plainpaper minds, savored, twisted, listed to lines sedate amidst corruption, bereft amidst the free littered with seduction, trash until the sea just moving faster moving forward oh but maybe too fast maybe too forward into purplesplotched organic darkness, blood red mass of tentacles ribbed and wet and thrashing, exploding all around him with the maddening unfocused lucidity of hallucination, stroboscope monsters writhing stark blackwhite all around, beating to a teratogenic symphony and Manny is a soft white woman and it is a giant alien, raping him (strangely pleasurable?!) —but ok, ok, crescendo... ing... gone... the cd changes to oh god melting dissipating mushroom pink apple-green minty Mac taste greenapple tart silversofted and rubbery peppermint-ribbed laughter and manic angel voices peached and poached and applied, glistened green slime and a sweet mushroom slickiness, oboe overtones and fractal-eyed owls, dirt on steel, silting real, and the gulped slaplessness of saltwater, as ribbonous taffies of nebulous gold float through and images, unbidden: an ugly old woman made of clear plastic tubing, sleek and stuffed with brains, while outside her window knights in sil verfoam armor troop 145


Berkeley Fiction Review past vegetable nuns in little crooked hats and a little gray professorial type in red and white stripes holds a football player in an armlock, shattering pulsing sinew and bone and screaming with maniacal laughter while Manny rotates around behind him like a camera to a verdant emerald green valley and a vivid white house which he dives into to find a man, a small man, alone. At a very critical point in his life: the point where water boils and carbon compacts to diamond, the point where uranium goes critical and feedback no longer dissipates and dies but rises and rages and shrieks. Because hasn't he stayed awake these last three nights, and hasn't his wife arrived home late every single one of them? Hasn't he smelled the rich odor of grease and tool steel on her clothes? (thinking of the swing shift technician, short but young and strong, always laughing, insolent). Hasn't he? Javier is a simple man, but not a stupid one. Javier is a good man. But he's no saint. And the anguish that has sat cold inside him this last month now sours, ferments, ignites into something stronger, compresses and compacts into something solid. Anger. Rage. Pure and focused, with a clarity that has been denied him this last month of silent self-torment and quiet humiliations. Anger. That drives him to her chest of drawers, where he finds her extra key to the factory. Anger. That drives him to the closet, where he finds his old bicycle. And with the clearheadedness of this rage, Javier pushes off into the night, armed only with an anger that demands resolution, an anger that demands confrontation... In a classroom. That seems quieter than usual to Tracey, as she waits for class to begin. Nervous, she is nervous with every one of her nerves, as if ten thousand previously autonomic muscular functions are now suddenly under her conscious control and she doesn't quite know what to do with them. How to sit unselfconsciously, to shape her face, to rest her eyes. She feels them watching her. She doesn't want to look up, doesn't want them to see her eyes, to feel what she feels. But she can feel them probing into her, weighing, assessing, trying to take the measure of her soul, and she is frozen by their inquisitive stares. Mr. Lawrence comes in late with a cheery excuse and a smile, but Tracey doesn't hear a word he says, only sits, petrified—she's sculpted this scene a thousand times before, how it should be, what everyone will 146

Mergeform say and how they will say it, but now she hardly remembers it at all, it's too real, too sudden. She turns to her story for solace, scans the first paragraph. Then the next. Then the next. And cold, icy fear thrills to the core of her. She barely recognizes them. The words stand stilted and alone, empty, shallow, flat-flat prose on a flat page, lifeless. Her flights of poetic aspiration have somehow shrunk to stretched metaphors and the occasional alliteration, her sleek streamlined sentences stand ungainly and awkward. Nothing, she realizes. Insipid nothingness... "Well, Tracey," Mr. Lawrence says, "are you ready to begin?" Tracey nods dumbly. "OK, who's first?" Mr. Lawrence scans the room expectantly. Nobody volunteers. Tracey sits in mute misery. "Gordon? How about you?" Gordon looks up, startled: "Oh, um," he croaks out, then clears his throat. "Sorry. I've lost my voice," he says. Behind Tracey, the door opens. She glances behind her to see a man striding toward them. Too quickly something flashes and arcs and crashes down through Gordon, and Tracey flinches from the blood that spatters on her and is off her seat pushing, just pushing away into the others like sheep, warm bodies staring in sick amazement as the man tries to kick Gordon's body off his sword. The first time he misses, just kicks the chair out from under him, but the second time he runs Gordon's body off the end and then draws the flats of the blade across the sofa, leaving two drools of blood. He surveys the class briefly, assessing any possible threats with the calm eyes of a warrior. Then he scabbards his sword and walks out. For a second, no one does anything. They're all just huddled against each other in the side of the room. Gordon lies there, split from his neck down to almost his waist, his slashed, jellied organs sliding onto the carpet and his blood pumping itself out in gouts, his eyes going glassy and his mouth gaping open and shut like a fish. For another second, no one does anything. Then one of the boys jumps on one of the couches and skirts around the dead body and they all follow, one after another until they're all out in the hallway. Mr. Lawrence points the way and then they're all just running, just racing. Curving left and then right, wind whistling all around as asphalt rolls underneath and mercury-vapor lights pass overhead.

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Berkeley Fiction Review past vegetable nuns in little crooked hats and a little gray professorial type in red and white stripes holds a football player in an armlock, shattering pulsing sinew and bone and screaming with maniacal laughter while Manny rotates around behind him like a camera to a verdant emerald green valley and a vivid white house which he dives into to find a man, a small man, alone. At a very critical point in his life: the point where water boils and carbon compacts to diamond, the point where uranium goes critical and feedback no longer dissipates and dies but rises and rages and shrieks. Because hasn't he stayed awake these last three nights, and hasn't his wife arrived home late every single one of them? Hasn't he smelled the rich odor of grease and tool steel on her clothes? (thinking of the swing shift technician, short but young and strong, always laughing, insolent). Hasn't he? Javier is a simple man, but not a stupid one. Javier is a good man. But he's no saint. And the anguish that has sat cold inside him this last month now sours, ferments, ignites into something stronger, compresses and compacts into something solid. Anger. Rage. Pure and focused, with a clarity that has been denied him this last month of silent self-torment and quiet humiliations. Anger. That drives him to her chest of drawers, where he finds her extra key to the factory. Anger. That drives him to the closet, where he finds his old bicycle. And with the clearheadedness of this rage, Javier pushes off into the night, armed only with an anger that demands resolution, an anger that demands confrontation... In a classroom. That seems quieter than usual to Tracey, as she waits for class to begin. Nervous, she is nervous with every one of her nerves, as if ten thousand previously autonomic muscular functions are now suddenly under her conscious control and she doesn't quite know what to do with them. How to sit unselfconsciously, to shape her face, to rest her eyes. She feels them watching her. She doesn't want to look up, doesn't want them to see her eyes, to feel what she feels. But she can feel them probing into her, weighing, assessing, trying to take the measure of her soul, and she is frozen by their inquisitive stares. Mr. Lawrence comes in late with a cheery excuse and a smile, but Tracey doesn't hear a word he says, only sits, petrified—she's sculpted this scene a thousand times before, how it should be, what everyone will 146

Mergeform say and how they will say it, but now she hardly remembers it at all, it's too real, too sudden. She turns to her story for solace, scans the first paragraph. Then the next. Then the next. And cold, icy fear thrills to the core of her. She barely recognizes them. The words stand stilted and alone, empty, shallow, flat-flat prose on a flat page, lifeless. Her flights of poetic aspiration have somehow shrunk to stretched metaphors and the occasional alliteration, her sleek streamlined sentences stand ungainly and awkward. Nothing, she realizes. Insipid nothingness... "Well, Tracey," Mr. Lawrence says, "are you ready to begin?" Tracey nods dumbly. "OK, who's first?" Mr. Lawrence scans the room expectantly. Nobody volunteers. Tracey sits in mute misery. "Gordon? How about you?" Gordon looks up, startled: "Oh, um," he croaks out, then clears his throat. "Sorry. I've lost my voice," he says. Behind Tracey, the door opens. She glances behind her to see a man striding toward them. Too quickly something flashes and arcs and crashes down through Gordon, and Tracey flinches from the blood that spatters on her and is off her seat pushing, just pushing away into the others like sheep, warm bodies staring in sick amazement as the man tries to kick Gordon's body off his sword. The first time he misses, just kicks the chair out from under him, but the second time he runs Gordon's body off the end and then draws the flats of the blade across the sofa, leaving two drools of blood. He surveys the class briefly, assessing any possible threats with the calm eyes of a warrior. Then he scabbards his sword and walks out. For a second, no one does anything. They're all just huddled against each other in the side of the room. Gordon lies there, split from his neck down to almost his waist, his slashed, jellied organs sliding onto the carpet and his blood pumping itself out in gouts, his eyes going glassy and his mouth gaping open and shut like a fish. For another second, no one does anything. Then one of the boys jumps on one of the couches and skirts around the dead body and they all follow, one after another until they're all out in the hallway. Mr. Lawrence points the way and then they're all just running, just racing. Curving left and then right, wind whistling all around as asphalt rolls underneath and mercury-vapor lights pass overhead.

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Berkeley Fiction Review Javier coasts to a stop in front of Thompson Plastics Manufacturing, then throws his bike down and walks forward. Above him the sky hangs black, nightmare furious. The chainlink parking lot gate is unlocked. He slides it open and (5) enters. His wife's little white hatchback sits alone in the lot. As the senior member of swing shift, it is her responsibility to lock up the factory when the shift is over. But the shift ended half an hour ago. The employee entrance to the factory floor is locked. Javier opens it with the key he took from her dresser, and steps inside. (10) The lights are on. The factory floor buzzes with overhead fluorescence, and the vacillations of machine dreams. Javier moves quickly, stealthily. He peers into the tool room, at the scarred, battered tables and grease rags and metal shavings and lathes and drill presses. Nothing. He peers into the maintenance comer, at the tool boxes and mounds of black-fingered pa(15) pers and racks and racks of screwdrivers and hammers. In the employee lunch room: just scattered plastic chairs and plastic tables, a TV, a microwave. The Assembly area: Air hoses and a few half-packed boxes. The molding foreman's office: some folders, some papers, a few simple posters exhorting ISO 9000 and the bland dogmatism of safety, quality and cus(20) tomer satisfaction. Outside the QC office a ball peen hammer sits on a rolling red Craftsman toolbox. Javier takes it, but there's no one inside QC. He makes his way to the back of the factoryfloor,to the molding machines, and stops. The #6 machine is still running, and inside its grease-streaked safety panel he can make out the white shape of her body between the massive (25) moving platens of the mold. Her delicate ivory wrist extends from the side of the safety panel, and her lacquered nails rest lightly upon a red knobbed lever that she inches, carefully forward and carefully back. Javier puts the hammer down and watches for a minute. And another minute. He is tired, suddenly— (30) His rage is gone utterly gone, beat out of him, deflated. He is drunk. He is dreaming. He can't even imagine ever having been angry, can't even imagine how he ever could have gotten here. All he's aware of is his love for her, his useless, needless love, his hopeless, impotent love. He's always loved her, always will, never could not. But what can he do? (35) He approaches #6, stands before it. Inside the machine, his wife mews softly. Javier gulps, once. Then reaches out (oh so ever so slowly) He reaches out and takes her hand. 148

30. The word "hatchback" (line 5) most likely refers to (A) (B) (C) (D) (E)

a pack animal a variety of automobile a sewing machine a deformed person an archaic chronometer

31. The "lathes and drill presses" referred to in line 13 are (A) (B) (C) (D) (E)

machines for working metal cooking utensils tools used in carpentry scientific instrumentation implements of torture

32. Judging from the author's tone in lines 1-9, which of the following best represents Javier's mood as he enters the factory? (A) (B) (C) (D) (E)

Joyful expectation Perplexed curiosity Overwhelming sadness Bitter anger Quiet resignation

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Berkeley Fiction Review Javier coasts to a stop in front of Thompson Plastics Manufacturing, then throws his bike down and walks forward. Above him the sky hangs black, nightmare furious. The chainlink parking lot gate is unlocked. He slides it open and (5) enters. His wife's little white hatchback sits alone in the lot. As the senior member of swing shift, it is her responsibility to lock up the factory when the shift is over. But the shift ended half an hour ago. The employee entrance to the factory floor is locked. Javier opens it with the key he took from her dresser, and steps inside. (10) The lights are on. The factory floor buzzes with overhead fluorescence, and the vacillations of machine dreams. Javier moves quickly, stealthily. He peers into the tool room, at the scarred, battered tables and grease rags and metal shavings and lathes and drill presses. Nothing. He peers into the maintenance comer, at the tool boxes and mounds of black-fingered pa(15) pers and racks and racks of screwdrivers and hammers. In the employee lunch room: just scattered plastic chairs and plastic tables, a TV, a microwave. The Assembly area: Air hoses and a few half-packed boxes. The molding foreman's office: some folders, some papers, a few simple posters exhorting ISO 9000 and the bland dogmatism of safety, quality and cus(20) tomer satisfaction. Outside the QC office a ball peen hammer sits on a rolling red Craftsman toolbox. Javier takes it, but there's no one inside QC. He makes his way to the back of the factoryfloor,to the molding machines, and stops. The #6 machine is still running, and inside its grease-streaked safety panel he can make out the white shape of her body between the massive (25) moving platens of the mold. Her delicate ivory wrist extends from the side of the safety panel, and her lacquered nails rest lightly upon a red knobbed lever that she inches, carefully forward and carefully back. Javier puts the hammer down and watches for a minute. And another minute. He is tired, suddenly— (30) His rage is gone utterly gone, beat out of him, deflated. He is drunk. He is dreaming. He can't even imagine ever having been angry, can't even imagine how he ever could have gotten here. All he's aware of is his love for her, his useless, needless love, his hopeless, impotent love. He's always loved her, always will, never could not. But what can he do? (35) He approaches #6, stands before it. Inside the machine, his wife mews softly. Javier gulps, once. Then reaches out (oh so ever so slowly) He reaches out and takes her hand. 148

30. The word "hatchback" (line 5) most likely refers to (A) (B) (C) (D) (E)

a pack animal a variety of automobile a sewing machine a deformed person an archaic chronometer

31. The "lathes and drill presses" referred to in line 13 are (A) (B) (C) (D) (E)

machines for working metal cooking utensils tools used in carpentry scientific instrumentation implements of torture

32. Judging from the author's tone in lines 1-9, which of the following best represents Javier's mood as he enters the factory? (A) (B) (C) (D) (E)

Joyful expectation Perplexed curiosity Overwhelming sadness Bitter anger Quiet resignation

GO ON TO THE NEXT PAGE

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Berkeley Fiction Review

33. Which of the following best captures the meaning of the word "dogmatism" in line 19? (A) (B) (C) (D) (E)

Intellectual curiosity Religious mysticism Scientific truth Accepted standard W e slander

34. Javier's immense feelings of despair in lines 30-32 demonstrate (A) (B) (C) (D) (E)

the intensity of his hatred for all things mechanical his passive, reticent character the lust he feels for his wife his hidden self-loathing and feelings of inadequacy the enormity of his love for his wife

35. Upon taking his wife's hand at the end, Javier most likely (A) (B) (C) (D) (E)

helps her out of the machine kisses her hand pleads for her forgiveness squeezes it to show his support gives her a firm handshake

S

T

O

P

IF YOU FINISH BEFORE TIME IS CALLED, YOU MAY CHECK YOUR WORK ON THIS SECTION ONLY DO NOT TURN TO ANY OTHER SECTION IN THE TEST.

150

Manny tossed his pencil on the ground and let loose a mighty stretch, then yawned and gazed vacantly out the window until Mrs. Ramsey called time. He turned his test in and strolled out. Another lazy Friday, but this brought another surge of apprehensiveness to Manny. The formal was only three weeks away, and still he didn't know who he was going to ask! Michaela had realized, too late, that she had hurt him—they both tried to pretend it was nothing, but their conversations since last week's party had been awkward and stilted. He pondered his rapidly dwindling options. And was still pondering when he turned a corner and saw a crowd of almost a hundred students gathering around Ross Hall, gesturing in excitement. He began walking towards the excitement: police tape, five, no, six squad cars? What the hell could be going on? As he neared the commotion a girl he had never seen before staggered away from it, pale and trembling. "Hey," Manny called to her. "What's going on?" She stopped and stared blankly at him, her eyes unfocused. "Crazy guy killed a kid. With a sword." "WHAT?!" Her eyes focused. She nodded, and swallowed. "Jesus fucking Christ, are you sure?" "I was there," she said in the same monotone. "Goddamn. You okay?" "Yeah." "Could I drive you home or something? You look pretty shook up." "Okay." She blinked up at him, a little perplexed, and smiled tentatively. "My car's over here. Jesus Christ..." Manny couldn't believe it. "You're the new girl, huh?" Tracey nodded at him, and without thinking, just naturally, Manny reached out and took her hand.

Kendra and Alexander were picnicking atop a hill overlooking the city. It was a beautiful day: the dome of sky enclosed them in deepest blue and pure, and the cumulus blossomed and cauliflowered above, gorged and gorgeous. Alexander had been depressed, earlier, that his 151


Mergeform

Berkeley Fiction Review

33. Which of the following best captures the meaning of the word "dogmatism" in line 19? (A) (B) (C) (D) (E)

Intellectual curiosity Religious mysticism Scientific truth Accepted standard W e slander

34. Javier's immense feelings of despair in lines 30-32 demonstrate (A) (B) (C) (D) (E)

the intensity of his hatred for all things mechanical his passive, reticent character the lust he feels for his wife his hidden self-loathing and feelings of inadequacy the enormity of his love for his wife

35. Upon taking his wife's hand at the end, Javier most likely (A) (B) (C) (D) (E)

helps her out of the machine kisses her hand pleads for her forgiveness squeezes it to show his support gives her a firm handshake

S

T

O

P

IF YOU FINISH BEFORE TIME IS CALLED, YOU MAY CHECK YOUR WORK ON THIS SECTION ONLY DO NOT TURN TO ANY OTHER SECTION IN THE TEST.

150

Manny tossed his pencil on the ground and let loose a mighty stretch, then yawned and gazed vacantly out the window until Mrs. Ramsey called time. He turned his test in and strolled out. Another lazy Friday, but this brought another surge of apprehensiveness to Manny. The formal was only three weeks away, and still he didn't know who he was going to ask! Michaela had realized, too late, that she had hurt him—they both tried to pretend it was nothing, but their conversations since last week's party had been awkward and stilted. He pondered his rapidly dwindling options. And was still pondering when he turned a corner and saw a crowd of almost a hundred students gathering around Ross Hall, gesturing in excitement. He began walking towards the excitement: police tape, five, no, six squad cars? What the hell could be going on? As he neared the commotion a girl he had never seen before staggered away from it, pale and trembling. "Hey," Manny called to her. "What's going on?" She stopped and stared blankly at him, her eyes unfocused. "Crazy guy killed a kid. With a sword." "WHAT?!" Her eyes focused. She nodded, and swallowed. "Jesus fucking Christ, are you sure?" "I was there," she said in the same monotone. "Goddamn. You okay?" "Yeah." "Could I drive you home or something? You look pretty shook up." "Okay." She blinked up at him, a little perplexed, and smiled tentatively. "My car's over here. Jesus Christ..." Manny couldn't believe it. "You're the new girl, huh?" Tracey nodded at him, and without thinking, just naturally, Manny reached out and took her hand.

Kendra and Alexander were picnicking atop a hill overlooking the city. It was a beautiful day: the dome of sky enclosed them in deepest blue and pure, and the cumulus blossomed and cauliflowered above, gorged and gorgeous. Alexander had been depressed, earlier, that his 151


Berkeley Fiction Review plan had failed, but he wasn't the type to stay unhappy for long. In fact, as they finished their meal and gazed across the city, he was in an unusually placid, philosophical mood. "Kendra," he said. "Tell me how are you so wise of such strange and mystical things?" She shrugged. "A parallel strand of interpretation, if you will — multitasking, context switching, privelege modes, that sort of thing." Alexander furrowed his brow at her. "I don't understand." "Yeah, I think it's a little much too. I don't know. I guess maybe just think of me as, well.. .1 don't know. A chosen one, a favorite of the Gods or something." "Ah, I understand." He nodded, satisfied. "Then may I ask a question of you?" "Sure," she said. "I begin to understand the depths of my predicament, and its ramifications, and yet, I fail to grasp any reason behind it. What is the purpose of this? What is the import? Why?" Kendra paused for a moment, gazing out across the city with its networked veins of people and cars, the ceaseless seething interconnectedness of it all, pattern for the sake of pattern and meaning for no sake at all, sound and fury that were shapeless, and the clouds, and the sky above. She surveyed it all, and felt Alexander's gaze boring into her, so earnest, so needy. And she didn't really know what to say.

C e n t r a l

M e r i d i a n

Jose Alaniz

And here stands a statue without its torch. And here runs a torch without a statue. And it's very simple: Where the man ends, The flame begins. And then in the silence can be heard the mumbling of worms in the ashes. Miroslav Holub, Jan Palach's Prague

It was a pleasure to burn. Ray Bradbury, Farenheit4Sl

152

153


Berkeley Fiction Review plan had failed, but he wasn't the type to stay unhappy for long. In fact, as they finished their meal and gazed across the city, he was in an unusually placid, philosophical mood. "Kendra," he said. "Tell me how are you so wise of such strange and mystical things?" She shrugged. "A parallel strand of interpretation, if you will — multitasking, context switching, privelege modes, that sort of thing." Alexander furrowed his brow at her. "I don't understand." "Yeah, I think it's a little much too. I don't know. I guess maybe just think of me as, well.. .1 don't know. A chosen one, a favorite of the Gods or something." "Ah, I understand." He nodded, satisfied. "Then may I ask a question of you?" "Sure," she said. "I begin to understand the depths of my predicament, and its ramifications, and yet, I fail to grasp any reason behind it. What is the purpose of this? What is the import? Why?" Kendra paused for a moment, gazing out across the city with its networked veins of people and cars, the ceaseless seething interconnectedness of it all, pattern for the sake of pattern and meaning for no sake at all, sound and fury that were shapeless, and the clouds, and the sky above. She surveyed it all, and felt Alexander's gaze boring into her, so earnest, so needy. And she didn't really know what to say.

C e n t r a l

M e r i d i a n

Jose Alaniz

And here stands a statue without its torch. And here runs a torch without a statue. And it's very simple: Where the man ends, The flame begins. And then in the silence can be heard the mumbling of worms in the ashes. Miroslav Holub, Jan Palach's Prague

It was a pleasure to burn. Ray Bradbury, Farenheit4Sl

152

153


Berkeley Fiction Review Wasn't ignoring you." Strake says, "wouldnt want to interrupt your most intelligent conversation" Funnyegyptncamel says, "ou peut etre pas ?11" KATNIP LEAVES. VALLEYGAY LEAVES, HEADED FOR PBD'S CHATHOUSE. Tpbacano says, "yo tambien quiero papas fritas! ! i ! ! * QUEENEE ENTERS. LIETUV ENTERS. Rockinronnie says, "lopis where r u from" Myjupiter says, "Nay!!! Como estas!?" Creativehands says, "LOL toad >:-(" Giack says, "Ciao, qualche italiana?" Radracerl6 says, "20 minutes to reconnect" SickofThis says, "Hey WEST.you still there" Catycalifornia says, "It anger my mother as well, she got spat on in the face by a black man for holding me. Go figure." COKEGUY ENTERS. Motie says, USHHH, Snowy. Have Hearts fooled. :-D ;-) HHOS" 16J69 says, "Hello, SarahHeartbum. You have said you like art?" Candyl3 says, "No i don't have a boyfriend" Nickelbag says, "real twist at the end, IMNSHO" Lopiss says, "Puerto Rico." DICKDRIP ENTERS. DIXY-BOY ENTERS. DIXY-BOY LEAVES, HEADED FOR UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT ALLEY #4 SarahHeartbum says,"16J69, yes I do. I luv it. ;-)" Emejiap says, "Hola Paho" JEAN-LUCPICARD766 LEAVES. Sufan says, "Youth is what you live it 8:-)" Zwieback says, "anyone wanna talk with an eightincher?" Leebuchet says, "Stop reading Jos23 and communicate!!" 16J69 says, "SarahHeartbum, have you seen Central Meridian at the LACMA?" NARIZON LEAVES. Stargate692 says, "Do You Go To A Big School" UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT/AUG. 11,1998 154

Central Meridian JOHNNY STORM LEAVES. Leebuchet says, "From my friend in school, but I still need to practice more, Quecho." Penetrator281 says, "That bathroom's a good country mile away:" Pullinghair says, (((((((STEVE)))))))) @>—,— DAENAA LEAVES, HEADED FOR UP-ALL-NIGHT COMPUTING. FAMINE LEAVES, HEADED FOR UP-ALL-NIGHT STRIPTEASE DUNGEON. SarahHeartbum says, "16J69, no I havent. Hungwell, just never you mind." Steve88 says, "6 minutes to 11." Torontotoad says, "I am totally with you, Ladyfreak! GMTA" Nickelbag says, "My foul and malodorous spirit." CABA says, "That's why they cremated Cobain" Quecho says, "BAK" Dickdrip says, "right, kafka. We are all beautiful in our way, people of all races don't have the understanding that we all really do need to get along. :'-)" KAMALA LEAVES. 44D says, "sugarbear did you forget about me?" KORKIE SMOOCHES STEVE88. Jailbait says, "Dream on, Gabe" Nickelbag says, "I'm not" 16J69 says, "I believe you would like it. Michael Milliken is the artist." Hungwell says, "Same as the color timer." Cokeguy says, "Well, Ladyfreak, I'm from Texas and people hate you out loud ... very loud!" Penetrator578 says, "Thanks Ray." Culero says, "ROFL " PRAXIS ENTERS. COKIEROBERTS LEAVES, HEADED FOR MASS ORGY ROOM #6. Sufan says, "Johnny how old are you?" Stargate692 says, "Do You Have Any Boy Friends" Candy13 says, "8th" IRON07 LEAVES. Traveler43 says, "Bye Room Good Night :A)" UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT / AUG. 11,1998 155


Berkeley Fiction Review Wasn't ignoring you." Strake says, "wouldnt want to interrupt your most intelligent conversation" Funnyegyptncamel says, "ou peut etre pas ?11" KATNIP LEAVES. VALLEYGAY LEAVES, HEADED FOR PBD'S CHATHOUSE. Tpbacano says, "yo tambien quiero papas fritas! ! i ! ! * QUEENEE ENTERS. LIETUV ENTERS. Rockinronnie says, "lopis where r u from" Myjupiter says, "Nay!!! Como estas!?" Creativehands says, "LOL toad >:-(" Giack says, "Ciao, qualche italiana?" Radracerl6 says, "20 minutes to reconnect" SickofThis says, "Hey WEST.you still there" Catycalifornia says, "It anger my mother as well, she got spat on in the face by a black man for holding me. Go figure." COKEGUY ENTERS. Motie says, USHHH, Snowy. Have Hearts fooled. :-D ;-) HHOS" 16J69 says, "Hello, SarahHeartbum. You have said you like art?" Candyl3 says, "No i don't have a boyfriend" Nickelbag says, "real twist at the end, IMNSHO" Lopiss says, "Puerto Rico." DICKDRIP ENTERS. DIXY-BOY ENTERS. DIXY-BOY LEAVES, HEADED FOR UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT ALLEY #4 SarahHeartbum says,"16J69, yes I do. I luv it. ;-)" Emejiap says, "Hola Paho" JEAN-LUCPICARD766 LEAVES. Sufan says, "Youth is what you live it 8:-)" Zwieback says, "anyone wanna talk with an eightincher?" Leebuchet says, "Stop reading Jos23 and communicate!!" 16J69 says, "SarahHeartbum, have you seen Central Meridian at the LACMA?" NARIZON LEAVES. Stargate692 says, "Do You Go To A Big School" UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT/AUG. 11,1998 154

Central Meridian JOHNNY STORM LEAVES. Leebuchet says, "From my friend in school, but I still need to practice more, Quecho." Penetrator281 says, "That bathroom's a good country mile away:" Pullinghair says, (((((((STEVE)))))))) @>—,— DAENAA LEAVES, HEADED FOR UP-ALL-NIGHT COMPUTING. FAMINE LEAVES, HEADED FOR UP-ALL-NIGHT STRIPTEASE DUNGEON. SarahHeartbum says, "16J69, no I havent. Hungwell, just never you mind." Steve88 says, "6 minutes to 11." Torontotoad says, "I am totally with you, Ladyfreak! GMTA" Nickelbag says, "My foul and malodorous spirit." CABA says, "That's why they cremated Cobain" Quecho says, "BAK" Dickdrip says, "right, kafka. We are all beautiful in our way, people of all races don't have the understanding that we all really do need to get along. :'-)" KAMALA LEAVES. 44D says, "sugarbear did you forget about me?" KORKIE SMOOCHES STEVE88. Jailbait says, "Dream on, Gabe" Nickelbag says, "I'm not" 16J69 says, "I believe you would like it. Michael Milliken is the artist." Hungwell says, "Same as the color timer." Cokeguy says, "Well, Ladyfreak, I'm from Texas and people hate you out loud ... very loud!" Penetrator578 says, "Thanks Ray." Culero says, "ROFL " PRAXIS ENTERS. COKIEROBERTS LEAVES, HEADED FOR MASS ORGY ROOM #6. Sufan says, "Johnny how old are you?" Stargate692 says, "Do You Have Any Boy Friends" Candy13 says, "8th" IRON07 LEAVES. Traveler43 says, "Bye Room Good Night :A)" UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT / AUG. 11,1998 155


Berkeley Fiction Review JACKMELOUD LEAVES, HEADED FOR SPORTSHOUSE #1. Quecho says, "Where did you learn Spanish Lee?" Sarahcan says, "Take care Traveler...." Johnnyyumal says, "Too old I think, sometimes." Mikkol2 says, "Hi Iron!" DICKDRIP LEAVES. TRAVELER43 LEAVES, HEADED FOR CHAT ALLEY. Quecho says, "De donde eres Emejiap?" SarahHeartbum says, "Never heard of him. Where are you from?" Grrila4 says, "Cobain who?" Ladyfreak says, "Hey you all pass some Red Stripe." Boromir says, "Suksuksuksusksuk" WOOKIE73 LEAVES, HEADED FOR PRIVATE ROOM. QUECHO says, "BTWdoes your name have a meaning lee?" 16J69 says, "I am Czech. A student of history at Charles University in Prague." SAMADAMS ENTERS. STEVE88 LEAVES, HEADED FOR PRIVATE ROOM. Superfox says, "you dumass." PHIL-U-UP SMILES BECAUSE VAN HALEN IS ON. Pullinghair says, "Cool avatar, lee" Rudy II ENTERS. Terrax5 says, "Sorry menn, no liquor in this house." Paralon says, "Englehart was on there from about 230 on. Ben took over the team." Liverwort says, "Gimme head til I'm dead." Jasonlo says, "It's a useless precaution but absolutely necessary." SarahHeartbum says, "Oh, wow. I know tons of people who've gone over there. Asia is real popular for tourists right now, right? What's your name, 16J69?" Lubyanka says, "Chevo ty menya osuzhdaesh, suka?" LISAMARIE LEAVES, HEADED FOR UP-ALL-NIGHT HAPPY HOUR # 59. LIETUV LEAVES. Peacel4 says, "do u ever come down this way" WOMYN LEAVES, HEADED FOR SINGLES BAR #18. Alliecat97 says, "how bout you stelbo" UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT/AUG. 11,1998 156

Central Meridian Queerfucker says, «:-** Stelbo says, "hey peace 14 chat with me" Affable says, "I just love your straight forward approach, you keep gaining marks!!! IMHO" HOTRICH ENTERS. 16J69 says, "My name is Jan. I very much recommend this exhibit." Peacel4 says, "hello stelbo" Jackme says, "how about me what :-ss)" Candi21 says, "Honesty IS the best policy." Nickelbag says, "consider the case closed." Alliecat97 says, "what age are you" Candi21 says, "Tell me about you." MEZCLA LEAVES. NUMBERR1GIRL ENTERS. SNOOPDOGGITTY ENTERS. SarahHeartbum says, "Exhibit? KrokerDoo, isn't it too hot in Texas for that?" Excess says, "I have tried to figure, but it dosent add up!!" Dickdrip says, "Nobody told me that fleas have knees." Alliecat says, "I am a web mistress. :-)-8" Bo&Peepl2 says, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one." CULERO LEAVES AND LOGS OFF. 16J69 says, "Central Meridian. It is an installation. I discovered it some weeks ago. SarahHeartbum, shall we go to a private room?" Dryhump says, "M, tiembla y ve estrellas y fuegos artificiales y OVNIS y extraterrestres" Ranxxeroxx says, "Coffee's burning." KrokerDoo says, "Uh uh." NACHOCHIP ENTERS. Choad says, "44D where are u?" Rudy II says, "Nobody told me that fleas eat cheese." STARGATE LEAVES, HEADED FOR Q CONTINUEM #5. CHATTERBOX ENTERS. FREUDMOTHER ENTERS. Dee-lite788 says, "Nichego podobnogo. Prosto xotel skazat, shto ty nepravilno vystupaesh s nyey." UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT / AUG. 11,1998 157


Berkeley Fiction Review JACKMELOUD LEAVES, HEADED FOR SPORTSHOUSE #1. Quecho says, "Where did you learn Spanish Lee?" Sarahcan says, "Take care Traveler...." Johnnyyumal says, "Too old I think, sometimes." Mikkol2 says, "Hi Iron!" DICKDRIP LEAVES. TRAVELER43 LEAVES, HEADED FOR CHAT ALLEY. Quecho says, "De donde eres Emejiap?" SarahHeartbum says, "Never heard of him. Where are you from?" Grrila4 says, "Cobain who?" Ladyfreak says, "Hey you all pass some Red Stripe." Boromir says, "Suksuksuksusksuk" WOOKIE73 LEAVES, HEADED FOR PRIVATE ROOM. QUECHO says, "BTWdoes your name have a meaning lee?" 16J69 says, "I am Czech. A student of history at Charles University in Prague." SAMADAMS ENTERS. STEVE88 LEAVES, HEADED FOR PRIVATE ROOM. Superfox says, "you dumass." PHIL-U-UP SMILES BECAUSE VAN HALEN IS ON. Pullinghair says, "Cool avatar, lee" Rudy II ENTERS. Terrax5 says, "Sorry menn, no liquor in this house." Paralon says, "Englehart was on there from about 230 on. Ben took over the team." Liverwort says, "Gimme head til I'm dead." Jasonlo says, "It's a useless precaution but absolutely necessary." SarahHeartbum says, "Oh, wow. I know tons of people who've gone over there. Asia is real popular for tourists right now, right? What's your name, 16J69?" Lubyanka says, "Chevo ty menya osuzhdaesh, suka?" LISAMARIE LEAVES, HEADED FOR UP-ALL-NIGHT HAPPY HOUR # 59. LIETUV LEAVES. Peacel4 says, "do u ever come down this way" WOMYN LEAVES, HEADED FOR SINGLES BAR #18. Alliecat97 says, "how bout you stelbo" UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT/AUG. 11,1998 156

Central Meridian Queerfucker says, «:-** Stelbo says, "hey peace 14 chat with me" Affable says, "I just love your straight forward approach, you keep gaining marks!!! IMHO" HOTRICH ENTERS. 16J69 says, "My name is Jan. I very much recommend this exhibit." Peacel4 says, "hello stelbo" Jackme says, "how about me what :-ss)" Candi21 says, "Honesty IS the best policy." Nickelbag says, "consider the case closed." Alliecat97 says, "what age are you" Candi21 says, "Tell me about you." MEZCLA LEAVES. NUMBERR1GIRL ENTERS. SNOOPDOGGITTY ENTERS. SarahHeartbum says, "Exhibit? KrokerDoo, isn't it too hot in Texas for that?" Excess says, "I have tried to figure, but it dosent add up!!" Dickdrip says, "Nobody told me that fleas have knees." Alliecat says, "I am a web mistress. :-)-8" Bo&Peepl2 says, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one." CULERO LEAVES AND LOGS OFF. 16J69 says, "Central Meridian. It is an installation. I discovered it some weeks ago. SarahHeartbum, shall we go to a private room?" Dryhump says, "M, tiembla y ve estrellas y fuegos artificiales y OVNIS y extraterrestres" Ranxxeroxx says, "Coffee's burning." KrokerDoo says, "Uh uh." NACHOCHIP ENTERS. Choad says, "44D where are u?" Rudy II says, "Nobody told me that fleas eat cheese." STARGATE LEAVES, HEADED FOR Q CONTINUEM #5. CHATTERBOX ENTERS. FREUDMOTHER ENTERS. Dee-lite788 says, "Nichego podobnogo. Prosto xotel skazat, shto ty nepravilno vystupaesh s nyey." UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT / AUG. 11,1998 157


Central Meridian

Berkeley Fiction Review SarahHeartbum says, "Sure. Zwieback, I'm going to ignore you if you don't stop that, just never you mind." JESSICA5 says, "NO SHIT." Freudmother says, "You are repeating yourself." SarahHeartbum says, "Damn weirdos, everywhere." Quecho says, "hijole, se va ha quemar el bato, que no, stelbo?" Nickelbag says, "Nejsem." Lubyanka says, "Ponyal. Ty syuda v Albuquerque priezhayesh ne skoro?" CREATIVEHANDS LEAVES, HEADED FOR NEWSROOM # 8. 16J69 says, "SarahHeartbum, shall we go to a private room so that we may speak more freely?" Boromir says, "Suksusksusksusksusksusk" CABA says, "just because you're paranoid C=}>;*{))" T+ SWIRLS SNOWWHYTE AROUND ROOM, DANCING. Dee-lite788 says, "Zhelatelno, snaesh? Ot deneg zavisit." SarahHeartbum says, "Sure, 16J69. Too many sickos in this room." LADYBEAR ENTERS. ORPHYNYXX ENTERS. Phil-u-up says, "last season sucked." Nickelbag says, "want to be honest-with you." DoninTokyo says, "We have eaten the english salad." Lietuv says, "Hey Jenny, C=}>;*{))." PartyfreaklO says, "I'm a mother of two." ENDOWED ENTERS THE ROOM. POWDERFINGER LEAVES, HEADED FOR CHAT ALLEY. Dulce says, "Strange fleas indeed" LOHENGRIN ENTERS. SPIRAL9 ENTERS. SARAHHEARTBURN LEAVES, HEADED FOR PRIVATE ROOM. Sufan says, "12 and a half." Choad says, "divide it by the cosign and that should get it." 16J69 YOU HAVE LEFT CHATHOUSE ROMANCE, HEADED FOR UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT / AUG. 11,1998 158

PRIVATE ROOM. 16J69 YOU HAVE ENTERED PRIVATE ROOM. 16J69: SarahHeartbum, you are there? SarahHeartbum: Sure, Jan. Hi. 16J69: Hello. Thank you for meeting me. SarahHeartbum: Sure. You sound like a nice guy. My name is Renee. 16J69: Very nice to meet you. What part of LA do you live in? SarahHeartbum: Sorry, can't say. Let's keep this anonymous, OK? Tell me about this installtion. 16J69: Yes. As i said, it is at LACMA. Milliken is well-known for his installations, I believe. He used to be a stage designer. The exhibit depicts a garage, complete with car and many objects. One may walk inside. SarahHeartbum: Wow. I don't know that much about installations. It sounds way cool. I haven't heard M.'s name before, in art world or stage world. But never you mind. 16J69: Do you know stage world? SarahHeartbum: I'm an actress. 16J69: That is interesting. What kind of action do you do? SarahHeartbum: Everything: movies, commercials, TV, theater. Whatever my agent can get. You might have seen me. I model some too. UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT / AUG. 11,1998 159


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Berkeley Fiction Review SarahHeartbum says, "Sure. Zwieback, I'm going to ignore you if you don't stop that, just never you mind." JESSICA5 says, "NO SHIT." Freudmother says, "You are repeating yourself." SarahHeartbum says, "Damn weirdos, everywhere." Quecho says, "hijole, se va ha quemar el bato, que no, stelbo?" Nickelbag says, "Nejsem." Lubyanka says, "Ponyal. Ty syuda v Albuquerque priezhayesh ne skoro?" CREATIVEHANDS LEAVES, HEADED FOR NEWSROOM # 8. 16J69 says, "SarahHeartbum, shall we go to a private room so that we may speak more freely?" Boromir says, "Suksusksusksusksusksusk" CABA says, "just because you're paranoid C=}>;*{))" T+ SWIRLS SNOWWHYTE AROUND ROOM, DANCING. Dee-lite788 says, "Zhelatelno, snaesh? Ot deneg zavisit." SarahHeartbum says, "Sure, 16J69. Too many sickos in this room." LADYBEAR ENTERS. ORPHYNYXX ENTERS. Phil-u-up says, "last season sucked." Nickelbag says, "want to be honest-with you." DoninTokyo says, "We have eaten the english salad." Lietuv says, "Hey Jenny, C=}>;*{))." PartyfreaklO says, "I'm a mother of two." ENDOWED ENTERS THE ROOM. POWDERFINGER LEAVES, HEADED FOR CHAT ALLEY. Dulce says, "Strange fleas indeed" LOHENGRIN ENTERS. SPIRAL9 ENTERS. SARAHHEARTBURN LEAVES, HEADED FOR PRIVATE ROOM. Sufan says, "12 and a half." Choad says, "divide it by the cosign and that should get it." 16J69 YOU HAVE LEFT CHATHOUSE ROMANCE, HEADED FOR UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT / AUG. 11,1998 158

PRIVATE ROOM. 16J69 YOU HAVE ENTERED PRIVATE ROOM. 16J69: SarahHeartbum, you are there? SarahHeartbum: Sure, Jan. Hi. 16J69: Hello. Thank you for meeting me. SarahHeartbum: Sure. You sound like a nice guy. My name is Renee. 16J69: Very nice to meet you. What part of LA do you live in? SarahHeartbum: Sorry, can't say. Let's keep this anonymous, OK? Tell me about this installtion. 16J69: Yes. As i said, it is at LACMA. Milliken is well-known for his installations, I believe. He used to be a stage designer. The exhibit depicts a garage, complete with car and many objects. One may walk inside. SarahHeartbum: Wow. I don't know that much about installations. It sounds way cool. I haven't heard M.'s name before, in art world or stage world. But never you mind. 16J69: Do you know stage world? SarahHeartbum: I'm an actress. 16J69: That is interesting. What kind of action do you do? SarahHeartbum: Everything: movies, commercials, TV, theater. Whatever my agent can get. You might have seen me. I model some too. UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT / AUG. 11,1998 159


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Berkeley Fiction Review 16J69: I have gone a number of times to our theatre in Prague. It is called Narodni divadlo. "National Theatre." People come from the provinces to see inexpensive shows. It is a very famous theatre, established in 1863. Where do you act. SarahHeartbum: It always depends. You know, you take what you can get. My agent says I'm doing pretty well. I'm 22, so I should do OK for a few more years, haha.:-> 16J69: That is wonderful. Theatre is very important. Have you heard of the theatre Polanski's Puppets on 51st street? SarahHeartbum: No. Your English is good. How old are you? 16J69: I am 20. Today, in fact, is my birthday SarahHeartbum: Oh, wow! Happy Brithday! 16J69: Thank you. SarahHeartbum: What are you gonna do? 16J69: It is late already. But I spent the day with my mother and brother Jiri and my friend Helen. We are from a small town near Prague, Vsetaty. SarahHeartbum: Wow. Are they all here with you in LA? 16J69: Yes. SarahHeartbum: Cool. My parents are in Scotland. 16J69: You are Scottish?

from there. I have duel citizenship. 16J69: Do you go to chat houses often? SarahHeartbum: Once in a while, if I have time. Its fun. But sometimes the sickos get to be a pain. 16J69: Do they really bother you? SarahHeartbum: Oh, yeah. Like, right now, that zwieback. He was PMing me, saying all these sick things. Forget it. Jan, I HOPE YOUR NOT A SICKO. 16J69: I am not certain what you mean. But I think,no. SarahHeartbum: Good. 16J69: I am not sure this word sicko. We are all human beings, however we may be different. We are all placed here to help each other, no? we are all comrades. So i believe. SarahHeartbum: Thats sweet. Hay, I would like to see this exhibit. Central Mediterranen. 16J69: Central Meridian. Shall we meet? I can show it to you. the museum is on Wilshire street. SarahHeartbum: No, Jan. I think we should keep this anonmous. 16J69: You sound like a nice person. SarahHeartbum: You too. But promise me you won't ask to meet me, OK? I've had some bad experiences on the net. 16J69: I am sorry to hear that, what kind expereinces?

SarahHeartbum: Half. I have very red hair. My dad is UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT / AUG. 11,1998 160

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Berkeley Fiction Review 16J69: I have gone a number of times to our theatre in Prague. It is called Narodni divadlo. "National Theatre." People come from the provinces to see inexpensive shows. It is a very famous theatre, established in 1863. Where do you act. SarahHeartbum: It always depends. You know, you take what you can get. My agent says I'm doing pretty well. I'm 22, so I should do OK for a few more years, haha.:-> 16J69: That is wonderful. Theatre is very important. Have you heard of the theatre Polanski's Puppets on 51st street? SarahHeartbum: No. Your English is good. How old are you? 16J69: I am 20. Today, in fact, is my birthday SarahHeartbum: Oh, wow! Happy Brithday! 16J69: Thank you. SarahHeartbum: What are you gonna do? 16J69: It is late already. But I spent the day with my mother and brother Jiri and my friend Helen. We are from a small town near Prague, Vsetaty. SarahHeartbum: Wow. Are they all here with you in LA? 16J69: Yes. SarahHeartbum: Cool. My parents are in Scotland. 16J69: You are Scottish?

from there. I have duel citizenship. 16J69: Do you go to chat houses often? SarahHeartbum: Once in a while, if I have time. Its fun. But sometimes the sickos get to be a pain. 16J69: Do they really bother you? SarahHeartbum: Oh, yeah. Like, right now, that zwieback. He was PMing me, saying all these sick things. Forget it. Jan, I HOPE YOUR NOT A SICKO. 16J69: I am not certain what you mean. But I think,no. SarahHeartbum: Good. 16J69: I am not sure this word sicko. We are all human beings, however we may be different. We are all placed here to help each other, no? we are all comrades. So i believe. SarahHeartbum: Thats sweet. Hay, I would like to see this exhibit. Central Mediterranen. 16J69: Central Meridian. Shall we meet? I can show it to you. the museum is on Wilshire street. SarahHeartbum: No, Jan. I think we should keep this anonmous. 16J69: You sound like a nice person. SarahHeartbum: You too. But promise me you won't ask to meet me, OK? I've had some bad experiences on the net. 16J69: I am sorry to hear that, what kind expereinces?

SarahHeartbum: Half. I have very red hair. My dad is UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT / AUG. 11,1998 160

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Berkeley Fiction Review SarahHeartbum: Better not say. I have no time for a boyfriend. Let's be net friends, OK?

Central Meridian SarahHeartbum: Jan, i said no. No meeting. No flesh. If I gave you my e-mail you could find me. You could be a real sickie.

16J69: Yes. 16J69: I am sorry. I will not ask again. SarahHeartbum: Jan is a funny name. SarahHeartbum: OK. 16J69: There are many Jans in Czech history. It is like your John or Juan or Ian. My father loved our great figures from our past: Jan Hus, Jan Komensky, Jan Zizka, Jan Zimmer, Jan Neruda, Jan Opletal. He named me for them.

Thank you. :)

16J69: I do get somewhat lonesome. It is a rather sad time for me. for my country, sometimes it is hard. I am not always best student.

SarahHeartbum: Thats sweet. What about Jan Michael Vincent? LOL

SarahHeartbum: I'll tell you what, Jan. I won't meet you, but we can write each other in the little book inside the museum.

16J69: I do not know him.

16J69: I do not understand.

SarahHeartbum: Just kidding.

SarahHeartbum: The little book, inside the hall there? Do you know it?

16J69: Most people say I am a serious person. SarahHeartbum: But you like art. Can't study all the time. 16J69: I must make my family and country proud for me, especially now. at this time. It is too bad we cannot meet, Renee. We both live here. SarahHeartbum: Sorry Jan. No can do. But I promise I'll see the exhibit. 16J69: You seem very nice. SarahHeartbum: You too. Do you have many friends in LA? 16J69: Yes. Pavel, Ladislav, Eva, Helen, also from university. Will you give me your number please, or email? UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT/AUG. 11,1998 162

16J69: Inside the museum hall? SarahHeartbum: Right. The little book there. 16J69: Yes. You have been to the museum before? SarahHeartbum: I've lived in LA for ten years. Sure I've been to LACMA. What floor is the inst. in? 16J69: 2. The Armand Hammer building. SarahHeartbum: Does that floor have a little book? You know, for everybody to write in? 16J69: I believe so. Milliken has his own booklet just for C M . SarahHeartbum: Perfect. An ex-boyfriend and I used to UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT / AUG; 11,1998 163


Berkeley Fiction Review SarahHeartbum: Better not say. I have no time for a boyfriend. Let's be net friends, OK?

Central Meridian SarahHeartbum: Jan, i said no. No meeting. No flesh. If I gave you my e-mail you could find me. You could be a real sickie.

16J69: Yes. 16J69: I am sorry. I will not ask again. SarahHeartbum: Jan is a funny name. SarahHeartbum: OK. 16J69: There are many Jans in Czech history. It is like your John or Juan or Ian. My father loved our great figures from our past: Jan Hus, Jan Komensky, Jan Zizka, Jan Zimmer, Jan Neruda, Jan Opletal. He named me for them.

Thank you. :)

16J69: I do get somewhat lonesome. It is a rather sad time for me. for my country, sometimes it is hard. I am not always best student.

SarahHeartbum: Thats sweet. What about Jan Michael Vincent? LOL

SarahHeartbum: I'll tell you what, Jan. I won't meet you, but we can write each other in the little book inside the museum.

16J69: I do not know him.

16J69: I do not understand.

SarahHeartbum: Just kidding.

SarahHeartbum: The little book, inside the hall there? Do you know it?

16J69: Most people say I am a serious person. SarahHeartbum: But you like art. Can't study all the time. 16J69: I must make my family and country proud for me, especially now. at this time. It is too bad we cannot meet, Renee. We both live here. SarahHeartbum: Sorry Jan. No can do. But I promise I'll see the exhibit. 16J69: You seem very nice. SarahHeartbum: You too. Do you have many friends in LA? 16J69: Yes. Pavel, Ladislav, Eva, Helen, also from university. Will you give me your number please, or email? UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT/AUG. 11,1998 162

16J69: Inside the museum hall? SarahHeartbum: Right. The little book there. 16J69: Yes. You have been to the museum before? SarahHeartbum: I've lived in LA for ten years. Sure I've been to LACMA. What floor is the inst. in? 16J69: 2. The Armand Hammer building. SarahHeartbum: Does that floor have a little book? You know, for everybody to write in? 16J69: I believe so. Milliken has his own booklet just for C M . SarahHeartbum: Perfect. An ex-boyfriend and I used to UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT / AUG; 11,1998 163


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Berkeley Fiction Review leave little *secret messages" to each other there. Two years ago. It was cute and fun. He was an artist. I'll drop you a line there sometime this week. I think I have some time before a shoot I am doing. 16J69: Are you certain? SarahHeartbum: Sure I'm sure. It will be fun. But promise me PROMISE me that you WILL NOT try to meet me. I'm going to trust you, Jan. My dad says I shouldn't do things like this in this city, but I'm going to trust you. 16J69: Thank.you. I promise. I give you my word. SarahHeartbum-: Thank you. TTFN, Jan. gotta go. 16J69: You will write something this week? It's good because I will go again. I go often, Milliken changes the exhibit often. He has a gorilla inside the garage that he moves. SarahHeartbum: You can write me about it OK? Gotta go now. expecting a call. :-* 16J69: Yes. Thank you.. I will await your message. I think you will like it. Renee, what does symbol :-* mean? SarahHeartbum: It means a kiss, Jan. SARAHHEARTBURN HAS LEFT PRIVATE ROOM, HEADED FOR CHAT ALLEY SARAHHEARTBURN IS NO LONGER LOGGED ON TO UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT 16J69 YOU HAVE LEFT PRIVATE ROOM, HEADED FOR CHAT ALLEY 16J69 YOU ARE NO LONGER LOGGED ON TO UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT SEE YOU SOON!

September 29,1998 exactly sixteen years ago, but now you could sit by thefreewayall day long and never catch sight of one. It's the tires. White wall, Bortel 1 As. Man, I wish Fd never given that thing away to my cousin. He wrecked it inside of three months. Anyway, thanks again for the memorys. Chuck Hale, Portsmouth, VA and family Enchanting. Delightful. Very LA Whythe name? We still have concerns of that. Just wondering indifferently. We will return again. Masha Vinograd, Omsk, RU Esta era mi septima ves. Eres un genio. Casate conmigo, te lo ruego, no lo Lovely! The whole inside of the garage made me all spooky, all heebeejeebee. Please don't ever leave, because my cousin Marge from Fargo has just got to see this, oh, please make this a permanent I think they're getting wise to us. Today Miss Jean Brodie gave me the evil eye the whole time I was walking around the Chagalls, staring at me like a hawk. Then when I come out of the powder room to get a drink, she walks up to me and doesn't even let me get up from the fountain and she says, (something like,) "I think you need to check that purse in,"— but she's let me carry it in and out of here for weeks! She just had this look in her eye. I wish I knew Latin or something or hay, how about Czech so that I wouldn't feel this like paranoia about her reading this. I hope you're around, Jan. Be careful. She's always creeping around the corner. I'll probably come in again on Tuesday. Audition tomorrow. Hope you're feeling better. Ren6e PS. There's a pigeon skull lodged inside one of the doll arms, by thefirstscreen door. I climbed up on the newspapers real quick and got a look. Kunta Kintei didn't see me. Lovely! Lovely! I can't thank you enough! God bless you, Mr. Milliken, sir! Luca Luciano, Fastville, OH Que cosas tienen. Se parece al lugar donde trabajo. Si quieres ven, te lo ensenp. Muy agradecido. Manuel Farrias, Fresno I think this is neat. Age 5. Name: Miyoshi. My only problem with it, personally, is all the junk. I take this meditation class once a week and thefirstthing they tell you: throw all that shit out. Its clutter, clutters your lungs, clutters your soul, your mind. Take out those newspapers (they look like stuff someone left up in their attic), those tires, typewriters, mood rings, receipts, etc. (you know what I mean)—take it out and burn it, or sell it. Theirs this huge dumpster right near Salinas, nobody ever goes down there. You take Highway 101 north and just passed the town, their it is. I live right by it. I'll help. I really think

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Berkeley Fiction Review leave little *secret messages" to each other there. Two years ago. It was cute and fun. He was an artist. I'll drop you a line there sometime this week. I think I have some time before a shoot I am doing. 16J69: Are you certain? SarahHeartbum: Sure I'm sure. It will be fun. But promise me PROMISE me that you WILL NOT try to meet me. I'm going to trust you, Jan. My dad says I shouldn't do things like this in this city, but I'm going to trust you. 16J69: Thank.you. I promise. I give you my word. SarahHeartbum-: Thank you. TTFN, Jan. gotta go. 16J69: You will write something this week? It's good because I will go again. I go often, Milliken changes the exhibit often. He has a gorilla inside the garage that he moves. SarahHeartbum: You can write me about it OK? Gotta go now. expecting a call. :-* 16J69: Yes. Thank you.. I will await your message. I think you will like it. Renee, what does symbol :-* mean? SarahHeartbum: It means a kiss, Jan. SARAHHEARTBURN HAS LEFT PRIVATE ROOM, HEADED FOR CHAT ALLEY SARAHHEARTBURN IS NO LONGER LOGGED ON TO UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT 16J69 YOU HAVE LEFT PRIVATE ROOM, HEADED FOR CHAT ALLEY 16J69 YOU ARE NO LONGER LOGGED ON TO UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT SEE YOU SOON!

September 29,1998 exactly sixteen years ago, but now you could sit by thefreewayall day long and never catch sight of one. It's the tires. White wall, Bortel 1 As. Man, I wish Fd never given that thing away to my cousin. He wrecked it inside of three months. Anyway, thanks again for the memorys. Chuck Hale, Portsmouth, VA and family Enchanting. Delightful. Very LA Whythe name? We still have concerns of that. Just wondering indifferently. We will return again. Masha Vinograd, Omsk, RU Esta era mi septima ves. Eres un genio. Casate conmigo, te lo ruego, no lo Lovely! The whole inside of the garage made me all spooky, all heebeejeebee. Please don't ever leave, because my cousin Marge from Fargo has just got to see this, oh, please make this a permanent I think they're getting wise to us. Today Miss Jean Brodie gave me the evil eye the whole time I was walking around the Chagalls, staring at me like a hawk. Then when I come out of the powder room to get a drink, she walks up to me and doesn't even let me get up from the fountain and she says, (something like,) "I think you need to check that purse in,"— but she's let me carry it in and out of here for weeks! She just had this look in her eye. I wish I knew Latin or something or hay, how about Czech so that I wouldn't feel this like paranoia about her reading this. I hope you're around, Jan. Be careful. She's always creeping around the corner. I'll probably come in again on Tuesday. Audition tomorrow. Hope you're feeling better. Ren6e PS. There's a pigeon skull lodged inside one of the doll arms, by thefirstscreen door. I climbed up on the newspapers real quick and got a look. Kunta Kintei didn't see me. Lovely! Lovely! I can't thank you enough! God bless you, Mr. Milliken, sir! Luca Luciano, Fastville, OH Que cosas tienen. Se parece al lugar donde trabajo. Si quieres ven, te lo ensenp. Muy agradecido. Manuel Farrias, Fresno I think this is neat. Age 5. Name: Miyoshi. My only problem with it, personally, is all the junk. I take this meditation class once a week and thefirstthing they tell you: throw all that shit out. Its clutter, clutters your lungs, clutters your soul, your mind. Take out those newspapers (they look like stuff someone left up in their attic), those tires, typewriters, mood rings, receipts, etc. (you know what I mean)—take it out and burn it, or sell it. Theirs this huge dumpster right near Salinas, nobody ever goes down there. You take Highway 101 north and just passed the town, their it is. I live right by it. I'll help. I really think

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September 30,1998 October 3,1998 .Det eneste "aegyptiske" ved det er sandet p£ gulvet. Hvor flad, trist, udtradt og ugivtig den udstilling forekommer mig! Amled Sloth, Helsing0r, Danmark Ah, a breath of fresh air. Installation meets Hollywood set. Am I right? Yes I am. Molly Molt, Silverlake Rosebud Rosebud RosebudRosebudRosebudRosebudRosebudRosebudRosebudRosebudRosebud RosebudRosebudRosebudRosebudRosebudRosebudRosebudRosebudRosebud Rosebud Rosebud? Whoa! Vail get all kinds here, huh? I guess eveybody passes through here at one time or another, a big place like this an' all, the weirdos too. We saw us a couple just now. For what it's worth, me and the wife had a holler. That's my two cents. Good show. We wish you luck and success in your future endeavours. Yes, sir. Very nice. Very profund. What he said. Jake & Mindy Slate, Midland, TX My quest is over. I have found the answer. This work, this work is God. You are God. God is Californian. God lives in Santa Monica. God is thank you for the tip. Yes, I am feeling better. I get, as you say, a little "hot under the collar" sometimes. Yes, I saw the stuffed bird. But did you notice the gorilla, which is now behind Saturn? And that Pluto has a new moon, Charon? The boatman, the river Styx. Ferryman of the dead. Today is Wednesday, you see, R. He has begun to come in on Wednesdays. Other new discoveries: a tiny smashed butterfly (mnymosene mnymosene? I believe so) dangling from inside the radiator grill; two new freckles on the dummy (left cheek); the north-northwest shopping list now demands three packs of carrots. Still feel odd when I read those recent restaurant receipts. There is one from September 12! O'Brien's diner! What troubles me is the music, the third number, after the (exactly!) seven minutes of static. A woman's voice, scratched. An opera? I do not know. I know little of music. Help, please! Hope you are now taking my advice to save these letters. Jan PS. You should not call him Kunta. I am serious. We must respect all nations, races, luck, fortune, chance, aleotary life, thrown to the winds, my savior, my liberator from Elysium! The gates are open, the Heaven light revealed! Kiss my burning cheek with your lips of thorns, your nimbic astigmatism, I am your yours, I rise on daggers of light. Sincerely, Antoinette Cormorant, Llano, NM 166

Un uomo di colore molto maleducato - penso fosse americano - non ci ha lasciato guardare dentro il laboratorio, a me e a mio fratello. Se ne e rimasto la come uno stupido, sbarrandoci l'entrata. Abbiamo potuto ascoltare solo la musica. Vorremmo lamentarci di persona, ma non parliamo bene I'inglese. Mario Bellini, Venezia, Italia Me and the Mrs. here was pleased as punch to take part in this here voyage a discovery, cuz back home our system seems to be working really well. Miss Jean Brodie has to cover the whole wing, so she's usually gone for as long as fifteen minutes. Plenty of time to rip out your note, write mine and walk away. Yes, yes, I started saving them. It's like being a spy!! Kunta Kintey fell alseep again today! Oh, sorry, the "African-American staff member.'' Is everybody so PC in Prague? LOLThe music is Mary Garden singing Claude Debussey's (SP?) "Mes longs cheveux," (SP??) from a (very) rare wax recording made in 1904. Who knows how the hell Milliken found it. My friend Clarissa, who teaches Music at Stanford, gave me the scoop. I taped the radio and played it for her over the phone. That's cheating, I know. Well, girls can cheat! Like I really have time to look things up anyway. Lunches, lunches, agents, contacts. I must kill and eat your children. Ciao! Ren£e. PS. Oh, my god—M.J.B. has a HUGE run in her hose today. Left leg, near the ankle! for us to think about once we make it back to ole Missoula. Thanke kindly. Luke Sargent, Missoula, Florida I feel the identifying cards for the exhibit should be larger. It is hard for older visitors to read and walk through here. Thanks. Keiko Ishigami Garden Gate, OH Wonderful museum! Please keep it open. Bettie D. Paffe, Islington, VT October 4,1998 We find the exhibit somewhat inappropriate for children. Why all these corporate labels? All this jetsam of capitalism? Nissan vacuum control tubes, Ken Harvey's chassis parts, Gastrol lubricant cans, Glowing Star detergent my congratulations onfindingthe music. He has kept it constant for months. As of now I have identifeid the three pieces: Ralph Burns' "Sprang" (recorded Feb 4, 1955); a bergamasca used by Girolamo Frescobaldi in Fiori Musicali (1635); and now the Mary Garden. Excellent! Thank you for saving our correspondence. "The lightest ink is sharper than the sharpest memory," as the Chinese say. Ace acrylic semi-gloss latex foam caps, Rand 167


Berkeley Fiction Review

Central Meridian

September 30,1998 October 3,1998 .Det eneste "aegyptiske" ved det er sandet p£ gulvet. Hvor flad, trist, udtradt og ugivtig den udstilling forekommer mig! Amled Sloth, Helsing0r, Danmark Ah, a breath of fresh air. Installation meets Hollywood set. Am I right? Yes I am. Molly Molt, Silverlake Rosebud Rosebud RosebudRosebudRosebudRosebudRosebudRosebudRosebudRosebudRosebud RosebudRosebudRosebudRosebudRosebudRosebudRosebudRosebudRosebud Rosebud Rosebud? Whoa! Vail get all kinds here, huh? I guess eveybody passes through here at one time or another, a big place like this an' all, the weirdos too. We saw us a couple just now. For what it's worth, me and the wife had a holler. That's my two cents. Good show. We wish you luck and success in your future endeavours. Yes, sir. Very nice. Very profund. What he said. Jake & Mindy Slate, Midland, TX My quest is over. I have found the answer. This work, this work is God. You are God. God is Californian. God lives in Santa Monica. God is thank you for the tip. Yes, I am feeling better. I get, as you say, a little "hot under the collar" sometimes. Yes, I saw the stuffed bird. But did you notice the gorilla, which is now behind Saturn? And that Pluto has a new moon, Charon? The boatman, the river Styx. Ferryman of the dead. Today is Wednesday, you see, R. He has begun to come in on Wednesdays. Other new discoveries: a tiny smashed butterfly (mnymosene mnymosene? I believe so) dangling from inside the radiator grill; two new freckles on the dummy (left cheek); the north-northwest shopping list now demands three packs of carrots. Still feel odd when I read those recent restaurant receipts. There is one from September 12! O'Brien's diner! What troubles me is the music, the third number, after the (exactly!) seven minutes of static. A woman's voice, scratched. An opera? I do not know. I know little of music. Help, please! Hope you are now taking my advice to save these letters. Jan PS. You should not call him Kunta. I am serious. We must respect all nations, races, luck, fortune, chance, aleotary life, thrown to the winds, my savior, my liberator from Elysium! The gates are open, the Heaven light revealed! Kiss my burning cheek with your lips of thorns, your nimbic astigmatism, I am your yours, I rise on daggers of light. Sincerely, Antoinette Cormorant, Llano, NM 166

Un uomo di colore molto maleducato - penso fosse americano - non ci ha lasciato guardare dentro il laboratorio, a me e a mio fratello. Se ne e rimasto la come uno stupido, sbarrandoci l'entrata. Abbiamo potuto ascoltare solo la musica. Vorremmo lamentarci di persona, ma non parliamo bene I'inglese. Mario Bellini, Venezia, Italia Me and the Mrs. here was pleased as punch to take part in this here voyage a discovery, cuz back home our system seems to be working really well. Miss Jean Brodie has to cover the whole wing, so she's usually gone for as long as fifteen minutes. Plenty of time to rip out your note, write mine and walk away. Yes, yes, I started saving them. It's like being a spy!! Kunta Kintey fell alseep again today! Oh, sorry, the "African-American staff member.'' Is everybody so PC in Prague? LOLThe music is Mary Garden singing Claude Debussey's (SP?) "Mes longs cheveux," (SP??) from a (very) rare wax recording made in 1904. Who knows how the hell Milliken found it. My friend Clarissa, who teaches Music at Stanford, gave me the scoop. I taped the radio and played it for her over the phone. That's cheating, I know. Well, girls can cheat! Like I really have time to look things up anyway. Lunches, lunches, agents, contacts. I must kill and eat your children. Ciao! Ren£e. PS. Oh, my god—M.J.B. has a HUGE run in her hose today. Left leg, near the ankle! for us to think about once we make it back to ole Missoula. Thanke kindly. Luke Sargent, Missoula, Florida I feel the identifying cards for the exhibit should be larger. It is hard for older visitors to read and walk through here. Thanks. Keiko Ishigami Garden Gate, OH Wonderful museum! Please keep it open. Bettie D. Paffe, Islington, VT October 4,1998 We find the exhibit somewhat inappropriate for children. Why all these corporate labels? All this jetsam of capitalism? Nissan vacuum control tubes, Ken Harvey's chassis parts, Gastrol lubricant cans, Glowing Star detergent my congratulations onfindingthe music. He has kept it constant for months. As of now I have identifeid the three pieces: Ralph Burns' "Sprang" (recorded Feb 4, 1955); a bergamasca used by Girolamo Frescobaldi in Fiori Musicali (1635); and now the Mary Garden. Excellent! Thank you for saving our correspondence. "The lightest ink is sharper than the sharpest memory," as the Chinese say. Ace acrylic semi-gloss latex foam caps, Rand 167


Central Meridian

Berkeley Fiction Review McNally road maps, El Cerrito restaurant calendar from 1949, Hastings air conditionerfilters,and the list goes on. Does Mr. Milliken have no shame or concern for the young, that he has corporate sponsorship maquerading as art? Sincerely, Jerry Sin Chiang, Detroit, MI The green Dart is a great touch. What is it about that model that holds such a fascination for us as a culture? Things have quieted down a bit in the capital. There are threats of strikes in the student union. I stand firm with my fellows. 1939 must never happen again and I don't think it will. We won't left you something inside TV under skeleton's right leg J. with Tucker upholstery, and who knows how many of us were conceived in these things, like in that Keinholz you've got in the hall. Great job and keep on truckin'! Rufus Wallace La Jolla, CA Brilliant, except for the fumes. Do you actually run that car? Liz Ramirez, Jacksonville, FL October 13,1998 The museums's nice. The exhibit is nice. The people the staff, are real nice. Sorry I haven't been in in a while. Long night last night. Producer's party, people getting dunked in the pool. Hellacious head-splitter. Oh, you know what? Today I saw him. Milliken! He's not white-haired at all, like I imagined. A little bald guy, late forties. I told him I loved it and he said something about installations, the "blending of space," Egypt, etc. He wouldn't tell me where he put the gorilla. R. PS. I got your "present" out of the TV just in time. M. was digging around in there just minutes after me. Be careful! We're gonna get in trouble. M.J. Brodie's suspicious, I know it. Why did you want me to have this for anyway? Why did you save and print out how we met? Jan, I said I wanted no weird stuff nice is just the best way to describe it. So, so nice. Please don't lose your niceness. Emma Winestock Lichen, OR I know I will return to see this again. I was stunned. I thought I had seen it all. But once I penetrated the outer screen door (I had passed it by the first time, thinking it was an actual part of the building!), it was like an epiphany. I spent over two hours in there. I dragged my best friend, on the way telling him, "This is the closest thing to a holodeck you and I are ever going to get." Inside again, I was rapturous. "We've penetrated the art space!" I kept repeating. "We're there!" Mr. Milliken, you've done what I thought an impossibility. You've actually given me a reason to come to LA. I'm buzzing. I'm on fucking fire. Who knows, I might even write a

168

October 14,1998 When I was growing up in south Indiana (right outside Bloomington), my best friend and I would play pirates and Civil War in my dad's work shed. It was huge. He used it to store our boat there, and to do woodwork. He would only be there on Saturdays in the summer, so my friend Jerrod and I had all Sunday afternoon after church to play in it. We couldn't wait to get home and take off our Sunday clothes so we could get all dirty and happy again in the shed. That shed had everything you can imagine. A big antique Hildegard buzzsaw, six or seven old fans (including a rusty ceiling fan from before the war, I think), spare parts, even an old abacus from Russia. For us that shed was like the whole world inside four walls. Our cat Jessie had three litters in one corner, right next to an old lawn mover, three years in a row. In the summers it was the best place to escape the burning heat, cool shade, spiderwebs, wooden swords we'd made ourselves. The boat was the Santa Maria, I was Columbus. Jerrod was an Indian. You could just sit there, all sweaty and tired after playing and look out the door or the window at the pond we had, and squeeze your eyes to make the glints on the water more geometrical, more like real triangles. Just when we needed her, Mom would come in from the house with a tray of lemonade and cucumber sandwiches, cut up in little squares. God, that was the best. Mom died two years ago, but that's the way I'll always remember her, smiling in her apron, there in the bright doorway, her hair still all done up after church, bringing me and Jerrod our lunch. "Don't go using my tray for a pirate shield, now," she would say. Every year I go back home to visit Pop, and by God, that shed's still there. The boat's gone (or rotted down into the ground, who knows?), but Dad still putters around in the shed with his cabinets and bed posts and bird houses. The pond's dried up, Jerrod's somewhere in Europe, but the same spider webs, the same rusty junk's still there, waiting, the same cracked mirror lying on the dusty plastic blue kid's swimming pool, that hasn't tasted water in 20 years. Everytime I see it I almost expect Jessie to jump out from behind it and meow hello. I humbly thank you, Mr. Milliken. I thank from the bottom of my heart for taking me back to my father's shed without even having to leave the city. With affection, Arnold Wang, Woodland Hills Lisa Ramone Indulge and you bulge! 8 ears old. I counted 85 spaces in the parking garage. One of them should be given to the Dart. It's perfectly good! And what's more did you read the passage by the man from Indiana? It reminded me of my own father. He was not exacdy a carpenter or inventor, but he was very good at his trade: confection. We had our own confectionery and sweets shop in Vsetaty, before it was closed down. My father died when I was 13, of a heart attack. Probably the thing that's scarred most deeply onto my memory is the day of his cremation, the coffin, all black, with flowers on top. I felt sad they would burn my papa, but even then I realized, deep inside, that it was for the best. The purity of the flames was the best treatment for my poor father's body. The Hindus believe that 169


Central Meridian

Berkeley Fiction Review McNally road maps, El Cerrito restaurant calendar from 1949, Hastings air conditionerfilters,and the list goes on. Does Mr. Milliken have no shame or concern for the young, that he has corporate sponsorship maquerading as art? Sincerely, Jerry Sin Chiang, Detroit, MI The green Dart is a great touch. What is it about that model that holds such a fascination for us as a culture? Things have quieted down a bit in the capital. There are threats of strikes in the student union. I stand firm with my fellows. 1939 must never happen again and I don't think it will. We won't left you something inside TV under skeleton's right leg J. with Tucker upholstery, and who knows how many of us were conceived in these things, like in that Keinholz you've got in the hall. Great job and keep on truckin'! Rufus Wallace La Jolla, CA Brilliant, except for the fumes. Do you actually run that car? Liz Ramirez, Jacksonville, FL October 13,1998 The museums's nice. The exhibit is nice. The people the staff, are real nice. Sorry I haven't been in in a while. Long night last night. Producer's party, people getting dunked in the pool. Hellacious head-splitter. Oh, you know what? Today I saw him. Milliken! He's not white-haired at all, like I imagined. A little bald guy, late forties. I told him I loved it and he said something about installations, the "blending of space," Egypt, etc. He wouldn't tell me where he put the gorilla. R. PS. I got your "present" out of the TV just in time. M. was digging around in there just minutes after me. Be careful! We're gonna get in trouble. M.J. Brodie's suspicious, I know it. Why did you want me to have this for anyway? Why did you save and print out how we met? Jan, I said I wanted no weird stuff nice is just the best way to describe it. So, so nice. Please don't lose your niceness. Emma Winestock Lichen, OR I know I will return to see this again. I was stunned. I thought I had seen it all. But once I penetrated the outer screen door (I had passed it by the first time, thinking it was an actual part of the building!), it was like an epiphany. I spent over two hours in there. I dragged my best friend, on the way telling him, "This is the closest thing to a holodeck you and I are ever going to get." Inside again, I was rapturous. "We've penetrated the art space!" I kept repeating. "We're there!" Mr. Milliken, you've done what I thought an impossibility. You've actually given me a reason to come to LA. I'm buzzing. I'm on fucking fire. Who knows, I might even write a

168

October 14,1998 When I was growing up in south Indiana (right outside Bloomington), my best friend and I would play pirates and Civil War in my dad's work shed. It was huge. He used it to store our boat there, and to do woodwork. He would only be there on Saturdays in the summer, so my friend Jerrod and I had all Sunday afternoon after church to play in it. We couldn't wait to get home and take off our Sunday clothes so we could get all dirty and happy again in the shed. That shed had everything you can imagine. A big antique Hildegard buzzsaw, six or seven old fans (including a rusty ceiling fan from before the war, I think), spare parts, even an old abacus from Russia. For us that shed was like the whole world inside four walls. Our cat Jessie had three litters in one corner, right next to an old lawn mover, three years in a row. In the summers it was the best place to escape the burning heat, cool shade, spiderwebs, wooden swords we'd made ourselves. The boat was the Santa Maria, I was Columbus. Jerrod was an Indian. You could just sit there, all sweaty and tired after playing and look out the door or the window at the pond we had, and squeeze your eyes to make the glints on the water more geometrical, more like real triangles. Just when we needed her, Mom would come in from the house with a tray of lemonade and cucumber sandwiches, cut up in little squares. God, that was the best. Mom died two years ago, but that's the way I'll always remember her, smiling in her apron, there in the bright doorway, her hair still all done up after church, bringing me and Jerrod our lunch. "Don't go using my tray for a pirate shield, now," she would say. Every year I go back home to visit Pop, and by God, that shed's still there. The boat's gone (or rotted down into the ground, who knows?), but Dad still putters around in the shed with his cabinets and bed posts and bird houses. The pond's dried up, Jerrod's somewhere in Europe, but the same spider webs, the same rusty junk's still there, waiting, the same cracked mirror lying on the dusty plastic blue kid's swimming pool, that hasn't tasted water in 20 years. Everytime I see it I almost expect Jessie to jump out from behind it and meow hello. I humbly thank you, Mr. Milliken. I thank from the bottom of my heart for taking me back to my father's shed without even having to leave the city. With affection, Arnold Wang, Woodland Hills Lisa Ramone Indulge and you bulge! 8 ears old. I counted 85 spaces in the parking garage. One of them should be given to the Dart. It's perfectly good! And what's more did you read the passage by the man from Indiana? It reminded me of my own father. He was not exacdy a carpenter or inventor, but he was very good at his trade: confection. We had our own confectionery and sweets shop in Vsetaty, before it was closed down. My father died when I was 13, of a heart attack. Probably the thing that's scarred most deeply onto my memory is the day of his cremation, the coffin, all black, with flowers on top. I felt sad they would burn my papa, but even then I realized, deep inside, that it was for the best. The purity of the flames was the best treatment for my poor father's body. The Hindus believe that 169


Berkeley Fiction Review cremation releases their dead from the putrefaction of flesh, burns away the pollutions of the body, of sin itself, transforms them into the spiritual incorruptibility of ash. In the Vedic pantheon, all sacrifices to the deities must go through the fire god Agni, the cleanser. Secretly I felt this, I think, and knew my father was well-served. J. because with new paint job and if you took that scary dummy out of the front seat, it would work just fine. LA needs more cars, sir. Alfred Lustig Echo Park 213-555-0863 Ho dovuto trascinarci il mio ragazzo, ma ne e valsa la pena. Nonostante le sue risate sguaiate e il suo sarcasmo, penso che gli sia proprio piaciuto. Abbiamo provato entrambi uno strano senso di deja vu, di riconoscimento, difficile da identificare. Ma escludo di aver visto niente del genere prima. Io e la prima volta che vengo a Los Angeles e il mio ragazzo non e tipo da andare per musei da solo. Molto interessante. In genere, preferisco la pittura alia moderna Environment Art, ma questo e stato qualcosa di speciale. Si ha l'impressione di innamorarsi delle cose, dell'effluvio degli oggetti. Ho percepito una santita, una sacrosanta predisposizione alia venerazione, prima ancora di leggere la spiegazione e l'affermazione dell'artista. La cosa che non mi aspettavo e il suo soffermarsi sulla morte. Non mi sento a mio agio a discutere di morte, o anche solo a pensarci, forse perche sono donna. Certo, mi rendo conto che tutto cid e naturale, che tutti noi possiamo morire persino molte volte per poi ritornare, ogni volta con una nuova identita. Tutto questo mi appare chiaro e comprensibile. Eppure questo pensiero continua a riempirmi di terrore; e per questo che ho preferito minimizzare quella parte del suo lavoro per godermi invece la meravigliosa e tenera evocazione della vita che rappresenta. Questo garage, pieno di cose morte, risplende del bagliore della vita. Sotto la polvere e le ragnatele, questi oggett sorridono. Spero di poter discutere a lungo di questo con il mio ragazzo, sia qui che una volta di ritorno a San Francisco. Mi piacerebbe ritornare e avere piu tempo per vedere le molte cose che ancora non ho visto, ma lui deve ritornare al suo lavoro in ospedale. Grazie per quest'opera toccante e profonda, e buona fortuna per il future Tonya Bartoli, Milano, Italy PS. spaghetti cappucino R. gorilla under Neptune look in mouthj. linguini Corleone pizza fertucine

170

a long time to come. And, finally, still running at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is Central Meridian, Michael Milliken's "permanent" installation tribute to American junk culture. In this delightful mixed-media re-creation of some fictional mad scientist's bungalow circa 19??, the Santa Monica artist weaves a colorful tapestry of diverse objects salvaged from garbage dumps, friends' attics and flea markets into a crazy, multifarious symphony cacophonous enough to mix many a reviewer's metaphors. What looks like a large shed taking up most of LACMA's Burt Ward Hall (with a baby carriage on the tin roof, natch) opens up via an ordinary screen door upon a. dark world of rusty, dusty, crusty splendor. A tool room packed full of every imaginable garden instrument first greets the visitor. Newspapers lay about in tiedtogether bundles, cobwebs dangle from the corners, and it's wall-to-wall shovels, buckets, hammers, washcloths, garden hoses, picture frames, lawn mowers, weed-eaters and all the other indescribable flotsam and jetsam that you've seen a thousand times in such places, all those knickknacks that cling like refrigerator magnets to the fat, well-pi eased underbelly of the American dream. But in this most familiar, most

banal of all settings, you need only look up to feel a disturbing unease — a notquite-rightness. Doll parts hang down from the rafters, little decapitated toddler heads, arms, buttocks, while, swinging among them: small aluminum balls on string labeled *Pluto" and "Neptune." Curiouser and curiouser. Another creaking screen door leads to the main chamber: a trashy, lived-in, authentic-smelling garage with oil stains on the floor; city ordinances and TEMPORARILY OUT OF GAS signs on the walls; a dusty counter top with pens, clips, towels, scraps of Rio Suite Hotel and Casino stationery, Astro Galaxy firecracker wrappers, Japanese postage stamps, etc., etc., and everywhere else: old klieglights, Walk-a-Pon liquid vinyl floor coating cans, rusty license plates, coat hangers, mounted deer, caribou and fox heads, baseball trophies, Folger's, Maxwell House, Butter-Nut, Yuba and Sandra coffee tins, six and half pairs of beat-up old skis (hanging), a faded print of a 17th-century German cartoon, restaurant receipts, fortune cookie slips (*Don't look back, always ahead"), tire jacks, Witteleind patching plaster boxes, toy trucks, amputated bike handlebars, a tattered lab coat, little dangling alluminum Uranus, Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Earth, Mercury 171


Berkeley Fiction Review cremation releases their dead from the putrefaction of flesh, burns away the pollutions of the body, of sin itself, transforms them into the spiritual incorruptibility of ash. In the Vedic pantheon, all sacrifices to the deities must go through the fire god Agni, the cleanser. Secretly I felt this, I think, and knew my father was well-served. J. because with new paint job and if you took that scary dummy out of the front seat, it would work just fine. LA needs more cars, sir. Alfred Lustig Echo Park 213-555-0863 Ho dovuto trascinarci il mio ragazzo, ma ne e valsa la pena. Nonostante le sue risate sguaiate e il suo sarcasmo, penso che gli sia proprio piaciuto. Abbiamo provato entrambi uno strano senso di deja vu, di riconoscimento, difficile da identificare. Ma escludo di aver visto niente del genere prima. Io e la prima volta che vengo a Los Angeles e il mio ragazzo non e tipo da andare per musei da solo. Molto interessante. In genere, preferisco la pittura alia moderna Environment Art, ma questo e stato qualcosa di speciale. Si ha l'impressione di innamorarsi delle cose, dell'effluvio degli oggetti. Ho percepito una santita, una sacrosanta predisposizione alia venerazione, prima ancora di leggere la spiegazione e l'affermazione dell'artista. La cosa che non mi aspettavo e il suo soffermarsi sulla morte. Non mi sento a mio agio a discutere di morte, o anche solo a pensarci, forse perche sono donna. Certo, mi rendo conto che tutto cid e naturale, che tutti noi possiamo morire persino molte volte per poi ritornare, ogni volta con una nuova identita. Tutto questo mi appare chiaro e comprensibile. Eppure questo pensiero continua a riempirmi di terrore; e per questo che ho preferito minimizzare quella parte del suo lavoro per godermi invece la meravigliosa e tenera evocazione della vita che rappresenta. Questo garage, pieno di cose morte, risplende del bagliore della vita. Sotto la polvere e le ragnatele, questi oggett sorridono. Spero di poter discutere a lungo di questo con il mio ragazzo, sia qui che una volta di ritorno a San Francisco. Mi piacerebbe ritornare e avere piu tempo per vedere le molte cose che ancora non ho visto, ma lui deve ritornare al suo lavoro in ospedale. Grazie per quest'opera toccante e profonda, e buona fortuna per il future Tonya Bartoli, Milano, Italy PS. spaghetti cappucino R. gorilla under Neptune look in mouthj. linguini Corleone pizza fertucine

170

a long time to come. And, finally, still running at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is Central Meridian, Michael Milliken's "permanent" installation tribute to American junk culture. In this delightful mixed-media re-creation of some fictional mad scientist's bungalow circa 19??, the Santa Monica artist weaves a colorful tapestry of diverse objects salvaged from garbage dumps, friends' attics and flea markets into a crazy, multifarious symphony cacophonous enough to mix many a reviewer's metaphors. What looks like a large shed taking up most of LACMA's Burt Ward Hall (with a baby carriage on the tin roof, natch) opens up via an ordinary screen door upon a. dark world of rusty, dusty, crusty splendor. A tool room packed full of every imaginable garden instrument first greets the visitor. Newspapers lay about in tiedtogether bundles, cobwebs dangle from the corners, and it's wall-to-wall shovels, buckets, hammers, washcloths, garden hoses, picture frames, lawn mowers, weed-eaters and all the other indescribable flotsam and jetsam that you've seen a thousand times in such places, all those knickknacks that cling like refrigerator magnets to the fat, well-pi eased underbelly of the American dream. But in this most familiar, most

banal of all settings, you need only look up to feel a disturbing unease — a notquite-rightness. Doll parts hang down from the rafters, little decapitated toddler heads, arms, buttocks, while, swinging among them: small aluminum balls on string labeled *Pluto" and "Neptune." Curiouser and curiouser. Another creaking screen door leads to the main chamber: a trashy, lived-in, authentic-smelling garage with oil stains on the floor; city ordinances and TEMPORARILY OUT OF GAS signs on the walls; a dusty counter top with pens, clips, towels, scraps of Rio Suite Hotel and Casino stationery, Astro Galaxy firecracker wrappers, Japanese postage stamps, etc., etc., and everywhere else: old klieglights, Walk-a-Pon liquid vinyl floor coating cans, rusty license plates, coat hangers, mounted deer, caribou and fox heads, baseball trophies, Folger's, Maxwell House, Butter-Nut, Yuba and Sandra coffee tins, six and half pairs of beat-up old skis (hanging), a faded print of a 17th-century German cartoon, restaurant receipts, fortune cookie slips (*Don't look back, always ahead"), tire jacks, Witteleind patching plaster boxes, toy trucks, amputated bike handlebars, a tattered lab coat, little dangling alluminum Uranus, Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Earth, Mercury 171


Central Meridian

Berkeley Fiction Review (no Venus?), newspapers, newspapers, newspapers, Stop *n' Go cups, a Bee-Gee's concert poster, an eye chart, cereal boxes, chopsticks, watering cans, roller paint brushes and still more countless minutia, more, more . .. more stuff. Lots more. Folded wheelchairs, wound sleeping cables, mops, trashcans, dead typewriters, pushpins, wrenches, mattress springs, water-bobbing plastic roadrunners, Elvis mugs, central heating filters, baseball caps, greasy rags, and still, more more more: every conceivable thing that you could picture coming down a conveyor belt, getting packed up in plastic and being shipped off to the waiting masses. Presiding over it all like a metal and glass ziggurat is the room's crowning glory, the towering sun that holds the shiny wrinkled planets in its grip, that sits on its plinth with the stateliness of a dead Chinese emperor: a green, 1964 Dodge Dart. I could tell you about the little laboratory (with its creepy radio) attached to the side (its bizarre bric-a-brac heightens the unheimlich "mad scientist" motif) ; or I could describe the ancient Sylvania TV set with a baby skeleton in its hollow innards; or point out the beach wave sounds that emanate from behind the garage's large wooden doors, leading perhaps to some unseen tropiIll

cal paradise; or even try, just try, to give you a sense of the utter weirdness involved in looking inside the Dart's passenger window and having a wide-grinned Howdy Doody stare back at you from the driver's seat, one waxy hand on the wheel. I could, as well, I suppose, launch into a discussion of the artist's purported goal with this project: to marry American cast-off-and-bauble culture with ancient Egyptian tomb design—and all the rich readings that provides. But words, gentle reader— not to mention available column inches-can only do so much. Suffice it to say that Milliken is a master of the double-take, a witty and disconcerting mad-hatter who invites his glazed-eyed guests to rummage, explore, bend down, strain up, peep in and out of all the nooks and shadows, to always find there the unexpected, the outrageous, and, often, the nightmarish. Central Meridian is a magnificent follow-up to Milliken's previous installation Pavilion of Rain (which ran at the Oakland Art Museum in 1993) , a similarly junky cabin complete with miniature pond and real summer torrents every twenty minutes. Moreover, I would be remiss in my LA journalist duties if I didn't mention that Milliken has a background in film and stage design, (he worked on such sci-fi classics as Go Forth

and Replicate and Loving the Alien) and it is this experience, this attention to the minutest details of realitymimicking sets that bring Central Meridian's thousands of dead objects to stunning, humming, irrefragable life. Why, it's almost too real. You schizophrenics, don't forget your dopamine. Ah, I almost forgot. The gorilla. Can't forget the gorilla. Milliken, who considers CM a work in progress, slips a gorilla, in different guises, into various secret hiding places throughout the garage, moving it around once a week. This has turned the artist's growing legions of devoted fans (a minor LA subculture in its own right) into avid "monkey hunters." But enough. Tourists, friends, Romans, Egyptologists, clutterfreaks, get thee to Central Meridian mach schnell. In Milliken's "post-human" Ameritrashscapes, the only thing missing is people. That's where you come in. Darn it, this isn't "junk!" This is ART, folks, ART! Rob-0 says check it out. LACMA is located at 2151 Wilshire Boulevard, tel. 213-555-9087. Closed Mondays.

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Central Meridian

Berkeley Fiction Review (no Venus?), newspapers, newspapers, newspapers, Stop *n' Go cups, a Bee-Gee's concert poster, an eye chart, cereal boxes, chopsticks, watering cans, roller paint brushes and still more countless minutia, more, more . .. more stuff. Lots more. Folded wheelchairs, wound sleeping cables, mops, trashcans, dead typewriters, pushpins, wrenches, mattress springs, water-bobbing plastic roadrunners, Elvis mugs, central heating filters, baseball caps, greasy rags, and still, more more more: every conceivable thing that you could picture coming down a conveyor belt, getting packed up in plastic and being shipped off to the waiting masses. Presiding over it all like a metal and glass ziggurat is the room's crowning glory, the towering sun that holds the shiny wrinkled planets in its grip, that sits on its plinth with the stateliness of a dead Chinese emperor: a green, 1964 Dodge Dart. I could tell you about the little laboratory (with its creepy radio) attached to the side (its bizarre bric-a-brac heightens the unheimlich "mad scientist" motif) ; or I could describe the ancient Sylvania TV set with a baby skeleton in its hollow innards; or point out the beach wave sounds that emanate from behind the garage's large wooden doors, leading perhaps to some unseen tropiIll

cal paradise; or even try, just try, to give you a sense of the utter weirdness involved in looking inside the Dart's passenger window and having a wide-grinned Howdy Doody stare back at you from the driver's seat, one waxy hand on the wheel. I could, as well, I suppose, launch into a discussion of the artist's purported goal with this project: to marry American cast-off-and-bauble culture with ancient Egyptian tomb design—and all the rich readings that provides. But words, gentle reader— not to mention available column inches-can only do so much. Suffice it to say that Milliken is a master of the double-take, a witty and disconcerting mad-hatter who invites his glazed-eyed guests to rummage, explore, bend down, strain up, peep in and out of all the nooks and shadows, to always find there the unexpected, the outrageous, and, often, the nightmarish. Central Meridian is a magnificent follow-up to Milliken's previous installation Pavilion of Rain (which ran at the Oakland Art Museum in 1993) , a similarly junky cabin complete with miniature pond and real summer torrents every twenty minutes. Moreover, I would be remiss in my LA journalist duties if I didn't mention that Milliken has a background in film and stage design, (he worked on such sci-fi classics as Go Forth

and Replicate and Loving the Alien) and it is this experience, this attention to the minutest details of realitymimicking sets that bring Central Meridian's thousands of dead objects to stunning, humming, irrefragable life. Why, it's almost too real. You schizophrenics, don't forget your dopamine. Ah, I almost forgot. The gorilla. Can't forget the gorilla. Milliken, who considers CM a work in progress, slips a gorilla, in different guises, into various secret hiding places throughout the garage, moving it around once a week. This has turned the artist's growing legions of devoted fans (a minor LA subculture in its own right) into avid "monkey hunters." But enough. Tourists, friends, Romans, Egyptologists, clutterfreaks, get thee to Central Meridian mach schnell. In Milliken's "post-human" Ameritrashscapes, the only thing missing is people. That's where you come in. Darn it, this isn't "junk!" This is ART, folks, ART! Rob-0 says check it out. LACMA is located at 2151 Wilshire Boulevard, tel. 213-555-9087. Closed Mondays.

173


Berkelev Fiction Review Artists, or what passes for them these days, seem more concerned with posing questions than providing answers. Irresolution is the flavor of the month. Ha! Of the decade. Now jumping onto the crowded confines of this trendy bandwagon is Michael Milliken, an "installationer," heir to Edward Keinholz and his 60s ilk—the generation most responsible for turning a once-bright art form into cheap, kitschy commerce. And so, Mr. Milliken will doubtless find plenty of gaga-eyed suckers eager to pay LACMAs stiff entry fee to see his latest glorified little play set, Central Meridian. If this messy, mixed-media monstrosity proves anything, it's that Hollywood connections (Milliken's father worked in thefilmindustry and the artist himself seems to have spent too much time on the set of Taxi) will get you whatever you want in this art scene. I won't tire you with details. All you need remember is Milliken's previous disaster, the odious and obnoxious Pavilion of Rain, a literal wet dream of the artist's to spray water on his audience at 20-minute intervals while boring them with faux Hawaiian settings lifted from McHale 's Navy. Not surprisingly, Central Meridian (yet another oh-so-suggestive, empty title) proves to be no less pretentious. Call me a cold, stuffed-crotch fishwife (and believe me, some have) but it just burns me up to see talentless set-dressers like Milliken parading around the city, proclaiming grand new theories of "total environment" and "ruptured space." The only thing total is this artist's wasting of my time, the only thing "ruptured" is my patience. Mr. Milliken, like my ex-husband, is a deluded hack full of pathetic ideas he'd be better off keeping between himself and his favorite white-streaked blanket, not spewing them on his audience like a pill-popping Walt Disney wannabe. 174

Central Meridian As for Central Meridian, I need point the reader's attention no further than the rusty baby carriage which "adorns" the "work's" smeared exterior, sitting on its roof like some heroin-induced melding of Eisenstein and Tennessee Williams. This blatantly anti-woman image is reason enough to walk on, and maybe give Keinholz's stomach-turning Back Seat Dodge '38, which contaminates the adjacent hall, a nice round kick for good measure. Pitiful as it may seem, it's come to my attention that a loose "club" of Milliken groupies has hit on the idea of exploring Central Meridian, like grubs burrowing into a dead rabid dog. They spend hours a day inside the garage, which is modeled after an Egyptian tomb (oh, please Mr. Milliken, you're so clever, so cultured, so ethnically aware, take me now, now, Mr. Milliken, inside the Dart), seeking out its hidden "clues." Their shaggy grail: a protean gorilla that hides out in different locations, presumably eating its own excrement in obscurity while it waits to be discovered. If only its creator would do the same. Alas, Milliken continues to "tinker" with the work to this day, milking his LACMA meal ticket of ever more resources better spent on real artists. The ever-changing tableaux (if we can call moving bits of junk and a gorilla around once a week "tableaux") has inspired quite a following of odd but committed morons with too much time on their hands. Just more self-abusing "artistic" irresolution—the toast of the century. Just another way, I suppose, to distract yourself from real life in this howling, f—ing city. — Elda Comintas Editor's note: This is Mz. Comintas'final review for this publication. She's on her way back to Waco, Texas to head Baylor University's largest women's dorm.

October 16,1998 Sound of audio in installation VERY instusive— Janice Riddle, Rundberg, NV Fantastisk. Hvad det sa end betyder. Kin Petersen, Vejle, Danmark Kinda hokey. What's the big deal? People around me, all these farmers oohing and ahing. It's just a damn garage. Come over to my place if you want Jan, stop leaving me things in the exhibit! I can't guarantee that I'll come on the days when I say, and we're going to get caught one of these days. They're even writing about us in the media. What's the matter with you? I'm going to stop this if you don't quit! R. PS. It was a pretty funny article, though. Sorry to lose my cool. Nervous about my audition on Monday after eight or nine days living with me you won't want to see no goddamm garage again! Johnny Rotten Lucre, Deleware October 20,1998 Things, things, things. Often they are all we leave behind, or that is left to us. Americans think of themselves as recyclers, as materialists. But you are in fact only disposers. What is on all the shelves one year you will find in the city dumps the next. In Czechoslovakia we have been the true "environmentalists" for centuries, since before the Hapsburg yoke. My mother keeps the salt in an old aspirin jar, never thrown away. My father has used the same pipe for 20 years, though I hate it when he smokes. As Milliken says in his statement: "There's something about the poetry of junk. It's corny, but this is part of the wheel of life. We leave ourselves in these objects, and when we're gone we're still there, lingering inside them." I love these objects as I love my mother's scratched-up aspirin jar. Pavel Stransky Vienna We like America. We like come to America look at big buildings with lights and movie stars. LA! Swimming pools! We like all I can say is I wish I could "dispose" of my car. A '96 Celica. God, the thing's ready to fall apart. I know, I know, this nut up here's probably going to tell me they hold onto to their cars for 50 years in his country, but in LA that wouldn'tfly.Not for everybody I know, anyway. Anyway, I'm doing a commercial the next few days so I'll probably get back here next week. Some European perfume. Money's good. Hope you're doing okay. You've never missed a day before. R. PS. I counted eight new freckles on the dummy. And 57 different pens on the garage counter, unless you count that "four colors in one" pen as more than one. Is that 175


Berkelev Fiction Review Artists, or what passes for them these days, seem more concerned with posing questions than providing answers. Irresolution is the flavor of the month. Ha! Of the decade. Now jumping onto the crowded confines of this trendy bandwagon is Michael Milliken, an "installationer," heir to Edward Keinholz and his 60s ilk—the generation most responsible for turning a once-bright art form into cheap, kitschy commerce. And so, Mr. Milliken will doubtless find plenty of gaga-eyed suckers eager to pay LACMAs stiff entry fee to see his latest glorified little play set, Central Meridian. If this messy, mixed-media monstrosity proves anything, it's that Hollywood connections (Milliken's father worked in thefilmindustry and the artist himself seems to have spent too much time on the set of Taxi) will get you whatever you want in this art scene. I won't tire you with details. All you need remember is Milliken's previous disaster, the odious and obnoxious Pavilion of Rain, a literal wet dream of the artist's to spray water on his audience at 20-minute intervals while boring them with faux Hawaiian settings lifted from McHale 's Navy. Not surprisingly, Central Meridian (yet another oh-so-suggestive, empty title) proves to be no less pretentious. Call me a cold, stuffed-crotch fishwife (and believe me, some have) but it just burns me up to see talentless set-dressers like Milliken parading around the city, proclaiming grand new theories of "total environment" and "ruptured space." The only thing total is this artist's wasting of my time, the only thing "ruptured" is my patience. Mr. Milliken, like my ex-husband, is a deluded hack full of pathetic ideas he'd be better off keeping between himself and his favorite white-streaked blanket, not spewing them on his audience like a pill-popping Walt Disney wannabe. 174

Central Meridian As for Central Meridian, I need point the reader's attention no further than the rusty baby carriage which "adorns" the "work's" smeared exterior, sitting on its roof like some heroin-induced melding of Eisenstein and Tennessee Williams. This blatantly anti-woman image is reason enough to walk on, and maybe give Keinholz's stomach-turning Back Seat Dodge '38, which contaminates the adjacent hall, a nice round kick for good measure. Pitiful as it may seem, it's come to my attention that a loose "club" of Milliken groupies has hit on the idea of exploring Central Meridian, like grubs burrowing into a dead rabid dog. They spend hours a day inside the garage, which is modeled after an Egyptian tomb (oh, please Mr. Milliken, you're so clever, so cultured, so ethnically aware, take me now, now, Mr. Milliken, inside the Dart), seeking out its hidden "clues." Their shaggy grail: a protean gorilla that hides out in different locations, presumably eating its own excrement in obscurity while it waits to be discovered. If only its creator would do the same. Alas, Milliken continues to "tinker" with the work to this day, milking his LACMA meal ticket of ever more resources better spent on real artists. The ever-changing tableaux (if we can call moving bits of junk and a gorilla around once a week "tableaux") has inspired quite a following of odd but committed morons with too much time on their hands. Just more self-abusing "artistic" irresolution—the toast of the century. Just another way, I suppose, to distract yourself from real life in this howling, f—ing city. — Elda Comintas Editor's note: This is Mz. Comintas'final review for this publication. She's on her way back to Waco, Texas to head Baylor University's largest women's dorm.

October 16,1998 Sound of audio in installation VERY instusive— Janice Riddle, Rundberg, NV Fantastisk. Hvad det sa end betyder. Kin Petersen, Vejle, Danmark Kinda hokey. What's the big deal? People around me, all these farmers oohing and ahing. It's just a damn garage. Come over to my place if you want Jan, stop leaving me things in the exhibit! I can't guarantee that I'll come on the days when I say, and we're going to get caught one of these days. They're even writing about us in the media. What's the matter with you? I'm going to stop this if you don't quit! R. PS. It was a pretty funny article, though. Sorry to lose my cool. Nervous about my audition on Monday after eight or nine days living with me you won't want to see no goddamm garage again! Johnny Rotten Lucre, Deleware October 20,1998 Things, things, things. Often they are all we leave behind, or that is left to us. Americans think of themselves as recyclers, as materialists. But you are in fact only disposers. What is on all the shelves one year you will find in the city dumps the next. In Czechoslovakia we have been the true "environmentalists" for centuries, since before the Hapsburg yoke. My mother keeps the salt in an old aspirin jar, never thrown away. My father has used the same pipe for 20 years, though I hate it when he smokes. As Milliken says in his statement: "There's something about the poetry of junk. It's corny, but this is part of the wheel of life. We leave ourselves in these objects, and when we're gone we're still there, lingering inside them." I love these objects as I love my mother's scratched-up aspirin jar. Pavel Stransky Vienna We like America. We like come to America look at big buildings with lights and movie stars. LA! Swimming pools! We like all I can say is I wish I could "dispose" of my car. A '96 Celica. God, the thing's ready to fall apart. I know, I know, this nut up here's probably going to tell me they hold onto to their cars for 50 years in his country, but in LA that wouldn'tfly.Not for everybody I know, anyway. Anyway, I'm doing a commercial the next few days so I'll probably get back here next week. Some European perfume. Money's good. Hope you're doing okay. You've never missed a day before. R. PS. I counted eight new freckles on the dummy. And 57 different pens on the garage counter, unless you count that "four colors in one" pen as more than one. Is that 175


Central Meridian

Berkeley Fiction Review right? like it, like it very very much. We go home to Tokyo happy, very happy. We take many pictures, ya. Kyoshi Yashi Moshi Japan

s

Me gusto mucho su obra. Yo crecf en Mexico, manijando un automovil como .ese que tiene dentro del garaje. Tengo solamente una queja. El otro dfa (esta era nuestra segunda visita) poraqui andaba un negro, un hombre muygordo, pesado, maloliente, que nos estorbaba ir dentro del bungalow. Parece que busquaba algo dentro del television. No dicimos nada porque no sabiamos, quizas era un trabajador del museo. Pero hoy lo vimos otra vez, y no creyemos que trabaja aquf. -Un hombre muy raro. Pero aparte de eso, nos encanto mucho su obra. Gracias. Pablo & Anna Huijon Guanajuato, MX October 31, 1998 Packrat heaven. I'm sure my good friend Josh would wallow in this place, all those buckets and hoses and scraps. The guy never throws anything away! I'll definitely tell him about this. George Wan, Seattle The little plastic green German Shepherd in the laboratory (glass cabinet, second shelf, in front of the Principles of Heliotropism) reminds me of mydogAsta, from when I was a boy. Because of him I gained a reputation for being fearless. You see, once when I was seven he led me away from home one day, chasing a rabbit into the woods. My mother was frantic. I had been gone for hours. "We were tracking an animal," I told her when we got back. She was surprised at how calm and collected I was. Milliken's work evokes such a rush of nostalgia, so many countless memories for me, Renee. I am transported. I wish you could read this today. I miss you. John Wycliff, UK Ahoj, kluci! Est-qu'un club s'est forme autour de cette exposition? Je suis venu deux fois avec ma maman ce weekend, et j'ai recontre la meme femme un peu ronde qui regardait furtivement dans les recoins du garage et qui ecrivait dans un carnet. Est-ce que quelqu'un dans cette ville travaille, ou est-ce qu'ils sout tous des mannequins et des vendeuses? Ma mere a beaucoup apprecie le tome de De Beauvoir dans les toilettes. Salutations. Phillipe-Louis Anglade Quebec, CANADA Meget god, men meget praetenri0s, isaer musikken og lydeffekterne. Jeg sa jeres udstilling "Pavillion" sidste gang, jeg rejste rundt pa Vestkysten, og min reaktion var nogenlunde den samme. Regnen virkede meget fjollet. Nar en 176

kunstner er l0bet t0r for ideer, begynder han at bruge special effects. Denne udstilling h0rer hjemme i Hollywood. De bedste hilsner, Renate Dorff-Schultz, Holte, Danmark Too many niggers. November 3,1998 Dear sirs, My usual metier being restaurant critiques, I was dragged here against my will by an LA acquaintance with whom I may never spend an afternoon again. Suffice it to say that I would much rather have been elsewhere sampling the local cuisine. This exhibit is tres vulgar, tres common and tres tasteless. It is a great big inflated souffle with nothing inside to recommend it. This is all sound and fury signifying nothing. This "Americana," as it is usually termed, hasfinallylost whatever decadent charms it might have possessed thirty years ago and descended into the merest camp, the coarsest naturalism. I might also put in a word for larger doors. I could hardly squeeze my dainty frame through the oppressive confines of the entrance. While inside, what greeted me was hardly worth the effort. My former friend is finished at last with her tiresome review of the proceedings, and my stomach is grumbling intolerably. I wish you a most fond adieu, sir. May your escargots come al carbon, may your profiteroles be flambeed. Only a culture raised on burgers and pizza could create something like this and dare to call it "art." I remain ever your most humble servant, Roland Gastronome, Paris N'ecoutez pas Roland. L'oeurve est magnifique. Bravo! Le gorille est parfait. Les details et la passion dans l'oeurve me donnent un desir ardent de manger des carortes. Ne me demandez pas d'explication. C. Troescher, Paris What were we supposed to get out of it. The little blurb says you're Egyptian. Is Milliken an Egyptian name? Lara Loyola, Austin, ID It is extraordinary. We never thought Today I saw him. A man standing by the Dart, huge, black, alone. He smelled. His breathing was heavy. A look of sadness in his black black eyes as he stared vacantly at the exhibit. We locked eyes for just a split-second. There was so much sadness there, so much loss and ignorance. It is he whom we must help, Renee. To him must we bring peace, equality, as Milliken brings peace and equality to these objects. I have been called an idealist but there is nothing ideal in wanting the best for your country, for your fellow man, to give him the ultimate gift; your love. We must help this man, and the countless masses just like him. We must raise 177


Central Meridian

Berkeley Fiction Review right? like it, like it very very much. We go home to Tokyo happy, very happy. We take many pictures, ya. Kyoshi Yashi Moshi Japan

s

Me gusto mucho su obra. Yo crecf en Mexico, manijando un automovil como .ese que tiene dentro del garaje. Tengo solamente una queja. El otro dfa (esta era nuestra segunda visita) poraqui andaba un negro, un hombre muygordo, pesado, maloliente, que nos estorbaba ir dentro del bungalow. Parece que busquaba algo dentro del television. No dicimos nada porque no sabiamos, quizas era un trabajador del museo. Pero hoy lo vimos otra vez, y no creyemos que trabaja aquf. -Un hombre muy raro. Pero aparte de eso, nos encanto mucho su obra. Gracias. Pablo & Anna Huijon Guanajuato, MX October 31, 1998 Packrat heaven. I'm sure my good friend Josh would wallow in this place, all those buckets and hoses and scraps. The guy never throws anything away! I'll definitely tell him about this. George Wan, Seattle The little plastic green German Shepherd in the laboratory (glass cabinet, second shelf, in front of the Principles of Heliotropism) reminds me of mydogAsta, from when I was a boy. Because of him I gained a reputation for being fearless. You see, once when I was seven he led me away from home one day, chasing a rabbit into the woods. My mother was frantic. I had been gone for hours. "We were tracking an animal," I told her when we got back. She was surprised at how calm and collected I was. Milliken's work evokes such a rush of nostalgia, so many countless memories for me, Renee. I am transported. I wish you could read this today. I miss you. John Wycliff, UK Ahoj, kluci! Est-qu'un club s'est forme autour de cette exposition? Je suis venu deux fois avec ma maman ce weekend, et j'ai recontre la meme femme un peu ronde qui regardait furtivement dans les recoins du garage et qui ecrivait dans un carnet. Est-ce que quelqu'un dans cette ville travaille, ou est-ce qu'ils sout tous des mannequins et des vendeuses? Ma mere a beaucoup apprecie le tome de De Beauvoir dans les toilettes. Salutations. Phillipe-Louis Anglade Quebec, CANADA Meget god, men meget praetenri0s, isaer musikken og lydeffekterne. Jeg sa jeres udstilling "Pavillion" sidste gang, jeg rejste rundt pa Vestkysten, og min reaktion var nogenlunde den samme. Regnen virkede meget fjollet. Nar en 176

kunstner er l0bet t0r for ideer, begynder han at bruge special effects. Denne udstilling h0rer hjemme i Hollywood. De bedste hilsner, Renate Dorff-Schultz, Holte, Danmark Too many niggers. November 3,1998 Dear sirs, My usual metier being restaurant critiques, I was dragged here against my will by an LA acquaintance with whom I may never spend an afternoon again. Suffice it to say that I would much rather have been elsewhere sampling the local cuisine. This exhibit is tres vulgar, tres common and tres tasteless. It is a great big inflated souffle with nothing inside to recommend it. This is all sound and fury signifying nothing. This "Americana," as it is usually termed, hasfinallylost whatever decadent charms it might have possessed thirty years ago and descended into the merest camp, the coarsest naturalism. I might also put in a word for larger doors. I could hardly squeeze my dainty frame through the oppressive confines of the entrance. While inside, what greeted me was hardly worth the effort. My former friend is finished at last with her tiresome review of the proceedings, and my stomach is grumbling intolerably. I wish you a most fond adieu, sir. May your escargots come al carbon, may your profiteroles be flambeed. Only a culture raised on burgers and pizza could create something like this and dare to call it "art." I remain ever your most humble servant, Roland Gastronome, Paris N'ecoutez pas Roland. L'oeurve est magnifique. Bravo! Le gorille est parfait. Les details et la passion dans l'oeurve me donnent un desir ardent de manger des carortes. Ne me demandez pas d'explication. C. Troescher, Paris What were we supposed to get out of it. The little blurb says you're Egyptian. Is Milliken an Egyptian name? Lara Loyola, Austin, ID It is extraordinary. We never thought Today I saw him. A man standing by the Dart, huge, black, alone. He smelled. His breathing was heavy. A look of sadness in his black black eyes as he stared vacantly at the exhibit. We locked eyes for just a split-second. There was so much sadness there, so much loss and ignorance. It is he whom we must help, Renee. To him must we bring peace, equality, as Milliken brings peace and equality to these objects. I have been called an idealist but there is nothing ideal in wanting the best for your country, for your fellow man, to give him the ultimate gift; your love. We must help this man, and the countless masses just like him. We must raise 177


Central Meridian

Berkeley Fiction Review him. Only then will we truly be free. This invasion, the political squabbles, they all fade in comparison to this supreme task: the integration of the human race, extraordinary, extraordinary. Heather Wells, Wanake, MN

rygsaekrejse gennem Zaire. Vi kom naesten ud for et r0veri der, men min kaereste har det sorte baalte i karate. Sa han smadrede fjaeset pa dem. Virker bilen stadig? Vi ville gerne se, om den kan k0re. Held og lykke! Camilla Looper, K0benhavn, Danmark

total loss. Best of luck in the future and think about what I said. Roger Donner, Clovis, NM

88 paper clips, 136 buttons, 18 matches, 27 doll bodies, 17 doll heads Renee, please meet me somewhere. I need to see you. Talk. I believe I saw you on Tuesday. You wore a green dress, your red hair in a band. You wrote in the book. I could not see immediately what you wrote, because you were with a group of people, perhaps tourists. I could not dare approach. Ren6e, if that was you, please, I must see you. Renee, I am confused. Surely you have seen by now that I am harmless answer please 33 rubber bands, 1,998 sheets of white paper, 547 sheets of Post-it notes, 386

Growing up in Montana, you don't get a chance to see stuff like this. I mean, we live in a place a lot like it Jan, Oh my god, you were really here today. I think I saw that man too. Kunta K the guard said he's seen him here before. He was disgusting. Him and that other one in the note, the French guy? 'Couldn't get through the door? Uggh! I'm sorry, but these people should just stay home, lose weight, something. It spoils the museum experience to see them wobbling around. These drooling wheelchair people too. Why should we "help" them? They should do us a favor and let us keep our lunch ha ha! People should help themselves. Besides, my Dad says they get plenty of tax money. I'm sorry to hear things are going badly in Checkas Czakos in your country. I don't watch the news much. Gorilla in the radiator grill!! Nice to see you back. Love, R. malnutrition for kidsfromthese school lunches and all. But thank you all the same. Tara Lurch, Poughkeepsie, MO Mi e piaciuto assai. Mi sono sentito come se fussi entrato in una macchina del tempo, anche se il perche, non ve lo so dire. Issa e la prima volta ca in America, pero aggia conosciuto molti americani in guerra. La nipote mia studia a ca. E' stato molto bello. Vi ringrazio. Gennaro Esposito, Napoli, Italia November 8,1998 68 baby doll limbs, 9 planets, 13 moons, 7 pieces of graffiti. It was a travesty, this riot on the day of the anniversary of the October Revolution, when there should be parades, not disorder. I walked down Prikop Street with my friends and kept silent while they shouted anti-government slogans. I was not afraid. I had confronted the Warsaw pact troops in August, asked them why they oppress their nationalities at home and why when they come here, where there is no counter-revolution. But these slogans, they were stupid and vulgar, they help nothing. But when the topic came to Brezhnev I could not keep silent. They fell upon us, the police, when we tried to cross the cordon on Jindrishska Street. My head was grazed by a baton. Nothing serious. On this of all days, it was a crime. Nothing will stop the student strike now. In history there is a moment when something must happen, three knobs on the Sylvania, 14 stacks of newspaper, 3 baseball cards Being/Nothingness Det mindede mig og min kaereste om et sted vi sov engang hvor vi var pa 178

November 17,1998 We couldn't, like, stop giggling. You had us all like, oh my god, like, awesome, like fire it up, girl, like Jan, I thought we had an agreement. No meetings, no face to face. Stop asking me to meet you. We have a good thing here—no messiness. Don't get weird on me. There's enough weirdos around already. I'm sure you can handle whatever's bothering you. Just never you mind, sugah. Still your friend, Renee PS. I didn't make it on a callback because they needed someone "older." I even offered to dye my hair (the part was for a Scottish girl, so I thought my red would cover it), but they said no. They wanted a natural black haired lassie. Go figure. PPS. Was it you who wrote about a parade or party or something? Was that in a code? The weather's been gogeous lately. I hope you had a nice Czeck parade if that was you. because, like, Trina's dad tried to molest her over Spring Break and like, oh, wow gotta go, cool! Minnie Dryer, Venice Beach, CA So'wl'vlchu'ta' HIjol qama'pu DIHoH net Sov After flying 18 hours to make it here in time for my daughter's wedding, we just wanted to waste time until the dress was done R. I am sorry. This is the winter of discontent. The gorilla continues to elude me. J. glad we came here. Aaron Herzl, Tel Aviv Eye deed naught beleave inn fiendean duh fife remoat cuntrolls unreal Eye reekownted themfifethymes. De fad mann ease ah regoolrr Anne hee stings bat. Bud de garbs our awl FBI. Eat ist de psebundeenth dey too munchs Fromme my burrthmonth Anne Eye'm wading four Marie. November 24,1998 Andate tutti a fa'nculo, froci de merda. Ma chi pensate di fottere con tutte 179


Central Meridian

Berkeley Fiction Review him. Only then will we truly be free. This invasion, the political squabbles, they all fade in comparison to this supreme task: the integration of the human race, extraordinary, extraordinary. Heather Wells, Wanake, MN

rygsaekrejse gennem Zaire. Vi kom naesten ud for et r0veri der, men min kaereste har det sorte baalte i karate. Sa han smadrede fjaeset pa dem. Virker bilen stadig? Vi ville gerne se, om den kan k0re. Held og lykke! Camilla Looper, K0benhavn, Danmark

total loss. Best of luck in the future and think about what I said. Roger Donner, Clovis, NM

88 paper clips, 136 buttons, 18 matches, 27 doll bodies, 17 doll heads Renee, please meet me somewhere. I need to see you. Talk. I believe I saw you on Tuesday. You wore a green dress, your red hair in a band. You wrote in the book. I could not see immediately what you wrote, because you were with a group of people, perhaps tourists. I could not dare approach. Ren6e, if that was you, please, I must see you. Renee, I am confused. Surely you have seen by now that I am harmless answer please 33 rubber bands, 1,998 sheets of white paper, 547 sheets of Post-it notes, 386

Growing up in Montana, you don't get a chance to see stuff like this. I mean, we live in a place a lot like it Jan, Oh my god, you were really here today. I think I saw that man too. Kunta K the guard said he's seen him here before. He was disgusting. Him and that other one in the note, the French guy? 'Couldn't get through the door? Uggh! I'm sorry, but these people should just stay home, lose weight, something. It spoils the museum experience to see them wobbling around. These drooling wheelchair people too. Why should we "help" them? They should do us a favor and let us keep our lunch ha ha! People should help themselves. Besides, my Dad says they get plenty of tax money. I'm sorry to hear things are going badly in Checkas Czakos in your country. I don't watch the news much. Gorilla in the radiator grill!! Nice to see you back. Love, R. malnutrition for kidsfromthese school lunches and all. But thank you all the same. Tara Lurch, Poughkeepsie, MO Mi e piaciuto assai. Mi sono sentito come se fussi entrato in una macchina del tempo, anche se il perche, non ve lo so dire. Issa e la prima volta ca in America, pero aggia conosciuto molti americani in guerra. La nipote mia studia a ca. E' stato molto bello. Vi ringrazio. Gennaro Esposito, Napoli, Italia November 8,1998 68 baby doll limbs, 9 planets, 13 moons, 7 pieces of graffiti. It was a travesty, this riot on the day of the anniversary of the October Revolution, when there should be parades, not disorder. I walked down Prikop Street with my friends and kept silent while they shouted anti-government slogans. I was not afraid. I had confronted the Warsaw pact troops in August, asked them why they oppress their nationalities at home and why when they come here, where there is no counter-revolution. But these slogans, they were stupid and vulgar, they help nothing. But when the topic came to Brezhnev I could not keep silent. They fell upon us, the police, when we tried to cross the cordon on Jindrishska Street. My head was grazed by a baton. Nothing serious. On this of all days, it was a crime. Nothing will stop the student strike now. In history there is a moment when something must happen, three knobs on the Sylvania, 14 stacks of newspaper, 3 baseball cards Being/Nothingness Det mindede mig og min kaereste om et sted vi sov engang hvor vi var pa 178

November 17,1998 We couldn't, like, stop giggling. You had us all like, oh my god, like, awesome, like fire it up, girl, like Jan, I thought we had an agreement. No meetings, no face to face. Stop asking me to meet you. We have a good thing here—no messiness. Don't get weird on me. There's enough weirdos around already. I'm sure you can handle whatever's bothering you. Just never you mind, sugah. Still your friend, Renee PS. I didn't make it on a callback because they needed someone "older." I even offered to dye my hair (the part was for a Scottish girl, so I thought my red would cover it), but they said no. They wanted a natural black haired lassie. Go figure. PPS. Was it you who wrote about a parade or party or something? Was that in a code? The weather's been gogeous lately. I hope you had a nice Czeck parade if that was you. because, like, Trina's dad tried to molest her over Spring Break and like, oh, wow gotta go, cool! Minnie Dryer, Venice Beach, CA So'wl'vlchu'ta' HIjol qama'pu DIHoH net Sov After flying 18 hours to make it here in time for my daughter's wedding, we just wanted to waste time until the dress was done R. I am sorry. This is the winter of discontent. The gorilla continues to elude me. J. glad we came here. Aaron Herzl, Tel Aviv Eye deed naught beleave inn fiendean duh fife remoat cuntrolls unreal Eye reekownted themfifethymes. De fad mann ease ah regoolrr Anne hee stings bat. Bud de garbs our awl FBI. Eat ist de psebundeenth dey too munchs Fromme my burrthmonth Anne Eye'm wading four Marie. November 24,1998 Andate tutti a fa'nculo, froci de merda. Ma chi pensate di fottere con tutte 179


Central Meridian

Berkeley Fiction Review 'ste stronzate. Ve possino 'mazza.

Vaccaro Romolo, Roma, Italia

This car reminds of the freeway today. It's not moving ha ha! And apart from Jan, just wanted to wish you a happy Thanksgiving. I'm going to Scotiand to be with my father and his wife. When do Czechs celebrate Thanksgiving? I hope it's this week too. I'll write sometime next week. I'm still amazed by all the new stuff I see in M.'s work, stuff that was right in front of me but I never noticed before, like the little Mexican wrestler thingie on the counter, and the Jayne Mansfield decal. Amazing what you can see when you just open your eyes, huh? Love, R. worth the trouble of gassing up twice. As you say, "a tribute to our automotive city." Keyser Soze, Bugaria Bravo! Vi syntes godt om detog fik os et godt grin. Det med babyen pa loftet er sygt. Det var taet pa, at jeg efterlod noget. Hvem skal t0rre alt det op? Haha. Lars Smith-Poulsen, Nyk0bing F, Danmark C'est passionnant. Le mannequin dans le voiture m'a bien fait peur. Qu'estce c'est pour un type qui invente des choses pareilles? Et l'autre voituresculprure qui se trouve dans le couloir? C'est cradot tout ca-je me seus villaire de l'avoir vu. Mergi. Aldo Kuenzli, Chartres 70 erasers, 14 hub caps, 3 typewriters (Welmington, Brother, GE), 2 microcopes, We must admit the obvious. The strike has failed. At last we were doing something, at last there was going to be a response to August. I had never felt more alive. But Strakhov is finished. They all bowed their heads. Svoboda, Dubcek, Smrkovsky, surely they cannot fail us now. Surely in them there still burns the spirit of the Spring. Surely there remain Czechs who want,to do something, surely 6 Coca Cola bottles, 10 milk crates, one baby carriage, one gorilla (laughing under Dart), 63 glass December 3,1998 Las Vegas was better. They've got things like this, only they move and have lights. This gets rather boring. Renee, I hope very much you came back today. The day approaches. Helen, Eva, Pavel do not really under-stand. Helen is more of a sister, a friend in need because of her illness. I feel I can speak with you, only you. At least tell me about you, your life, your references. I have your image burned in my mind, say you will respond my wife agrees completely. Strange people visit here. Herbert George Walls, Central City, UT eras amet qui numquam amavit, quique amavit eras amet 180

Much better than our own Kunsthauswien. This spectacle, this ready-made texturality, furthers the notion that, in O'Doherty's words, "as modernism gets older, context becomes content." I also find myself thinking of Bakhtin and carnival, this dissolution of space and border. A theatre without a venue, discourse and spectacle, signifier and signified together, game and dream. And finally, ironically, to De Vere: all the world a stage, all of us merely players. Warmest regards, Wolfgang Rommel, Vienna Duchamp, Keinholz, now Milliken. What more can I say? Jan, please, no more asking personal details. Remember, no contacts, no flesh, no sound waves. This notebook, maybe the chat rooms once in a while, is all I can handle. Nobody really meets in LA anymore. Things are crazy and hectic enough. My career's priority number 1. People are like, fourth on the food chain, buddy. Let me give you some advice: try to think of relationships as "take-take." Always ask yourself: what can this person do for me? Is it worth my while to keep in touch? You and I have fun, Jan, let's keep it that way. OK? I have no room for people trying to impose their view of life on me. I've thought this through, I got all the angles covered. Please don't try to be a sickie. Love, R. PS. Gorilla alert! Behind the lava lamp and wig dummy, southeast laboratory! What do I win? accolades, accolades. Cathy Boothton, Milwaukee, WI December 4,1998 Will you return to school? You should perhaps return to school. I was rereading our correspondence last night. Czechs do not celebrate "Thanksgiving." Czechoslovakia is not in Asia. It is located in Eastern Europe, sandwiched between Poland and East Germany on the north and Austria, Hungary amd the Ukraine in the south. We are a great civilization that has been conquered and reconquered by brutes, from the Western Catholic papists to the Nazi savages and now these Soviet scum, who proclaim themselves our brothers while they arrest us in hordes, beat us, stamp us down My son and I did not appreciate the vulgar graffiti. Mr. Milliken, you, sir, are an arrogant elitist. Sincerely, Roh-MinWade NY, NY

December 13,1998 We'se from Louisiana, but just never you mind, sugah. Cuz this here art is way beyond I don't get you, Jan. School? It's fine for you, you want to study law or whatever, but I've got the talent and the willingness to make it in the entertainment biz. My agent Frank says I'm doing real well. That perfume commercial is coming out in Febuary in Italy, France, all over Europe. Prob181


Central Meridian

Berkeley Fiction Review 'ste stronzate. Ve possino 'mazza.

Vaccaro Romolo, Roma, Italia

This car reminds of the freeway today. It's not moving ha ha! And apart from Jan, just wanted to wish you a happy Thanksgiving. I'm going to Scotiand to be with my father and his wife. When do Czechs celebrate Thanksgiving? I hope it's this week too. I'll write sometime next week. I'm still amazed by all the new stuff I see in M.'s work, stuff that was right in front of me but I never noticed before, like the little Mexican wrestler thingie on the counter, and the Jayne Mansfield decal. Amazing what you can see when you just open your eyes, huh? Love, R. worth the trouble of gassing up twice. As you say, "a tribute to our automotive city." Keyser Soze, Bugaria Bravo! Vi syntes godt om detog fik os et godt grin. Det med babyen pa loftet er sygt. Det var taet pa, at jeg efterlod noget. Hvem skal t0rre alt det op? Haha. Lars Smith-Poulsen, Nyk0bing F, Danmark C'est passionnant. Le mannequin dans le voiture m'a bien fait peur. Qu'estce c'est pour un type qui invente des choses pareilles? Et l'autre voituresculprure qui se trouve dans le couloir? C'est cradot tout ca-je me seus villaire de l'avoir vu. Mergi. Aldo Kuenzli, Chartres 70 erasers, 14 hub caps, 3 typewriters (Welmington, Brother, GE), 2 microcopes, We must admit the obvious. The strike has failed. At last we were doing something, at last there was going to be a response to August. I had never felt more alive. But Strakhov is finished. They all bowed their heads. Svoboda, Dubcek, Smrkovsky, surely they cannot fail us now. Surely in them there still burns the spirit of the Spring. Surely there remain Czechs who want,to do something, surely 6 Coca Cola bottles, 10 milk crates, one baby carriage, one gorilla (laughing under Dart), 63 glass December 3,1998 Las Vegas was better. They've got things like this, only they move and have lights. This gets rather boring. Renee, I hope very much you came back today. The day approaches. Helen, Eva, Pavel do not really under-stand. Helen is more of a sister, a friend in need because of her illness. I feel I can speak with you, only you. At least tell me about you, your life, your references. I have your image burned in my mind, say you will respond my wife agrees completely. Strange people visit here. Herbert George Walls, Central City, UT eras amet qui numquam amavit, quique amavit eras amet 180

Much better than our own Kunsthauswien. This spectacle, this ready-made texturality, furthers the notion that, in O'Doherty's words, "as modernism gets older, context becomes content." I also find myself thinking of Bakhtin and carnival, this dissolution of space and border. A theatre without a venue, discourse and spectacle, signifier and signified together, game and dream. And finally, ironically, to De Vere: all the world a stage, all of us merely players. Warmest regards, Wolfgang Rommel, Vienna Duchamp, Keinholz, now Milliken. What more can I say? Jan, please, no more asking personal details. Remember, no contacts, no flesh, no sound waves. This notebook, maybe the chat rooms once in a while, is all I can handle. Nobody really meets in LA anymore. Things are crazy and hectic enough. My career's priority number 1. People are like, fourth on the food chain, buddy. Let me give you some advice: try to think of relationships as "take-take." Always ask yourself: what can this person do for me? Is it worth my while to keep in touch? You and I have fun, Jan, let's keep it that way. OK? I have no room for people trying to impose their view of life on me. I've thought this through, I got all the angles covered. Please don't try to be a sickie. Love, R. PS. Gorilla alert! Behind the lava lamp and wig dummy, southeast laboratory! What do I win? accolades, accolades. Cathy Boothton, Milwaukee, WI December 4,1998 Will you return to school? You should perhaps return to school. I was rereading our correspondence last night. Czechs do not celebrate "Thanksgiving." Czechoslovakia is not in Asia. It is located in Eastern Europe, sandwiched between Poland and East Germany on the north and Austria, Hungary amd the Ukraine in the south. We are a great civilization that has been conquered and reconquered by brutes, from the Western Catholic papists to the Nazi savages and now these Soviet scum, who proclaim themselves our brothers while they arrest us in hordes, beat us, stamp us down My son and I did not appreciate the vulgar graffiti. Mr. Milliken, you, sir, are an arrogant elitist. Sincerely, Roh-MinWade NY, NY

December 13,1998 We'se from Louisiana, but just never you mind, sugah. Cuz this here art is way beyond I don't get you, Jan. School? It's fine for you, you want to study law or whatever, but I've got the talent and the willingness to make it in the entertainment biz. My agent Frank says I'm doing real well. That perfume commercial is coming out in Febuary in Italy, France, all over Europe. Prob181


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Central Meridian

ably in Cheskoslovia too. They're gonna see my face plastered all over the place. My career is moving right along. So don't be telling me what to do. What's school gonna do for me? I need info I can use right here, right now. I don't care if you're pissed off about your country or whatever. I don't care where it is. I live in America. If there's a war or something going on then maybe you just shouldn't go back. Just never you mind. Stay here. You might be happier. You're starting to act really weird. Your making me think that maybe this has gone on too long. R. PS. Why didn't you hide your message? Miss Jean Brodie smiled at me today, so I guess we got lucky. Still got her fooled. But you better be careful or this is over! for the gumbo in the pot. Thanke. Greta Dupree Shreveport, LA Jeg syntes ikke sa godt om dette som om den Marc Chagall-udstilling, der ogsa findes i galleriet, eftersom denne udstilling - i modsaetning til Marc Chagall-vaerkerne - er kitsch. Der er ikke lagt nogen f0lelse i vaerkerne, de er blot en meningsl0s akkumulerirtg af materiale. Pa et af skiltene stod "6 guler0dder, 2 vandmeloner, vaskepulver." Skulle det kunne ber0re tilskueren felelsesmaessigt? Hr. McMillen burde indse, at det banale naeppe kan vaere nogen inspirationskilde. Vi har haft den type vaerker i Europa og deres tid er forbi. Jeg var pinligt ber0rt over at m&tte forklare rftin lille s0n, hvad saetriingerne pa vaeggen bet0d. Museet burde saette en advarsel op om den slags. Det er ikke Disneyland. Med venlig hilsen Per S0ndergaard, Alborg, Danmark December 22,1998 Occupation. Benes again. Capitulation. The reforms, the last year, erased, banished. No, we cannot repeat the Heydrich affair, that will only bring on another Lidice and Lezaky. These men are animals, I see that now. We are a proud, tiny people crushed between giants, and alone, always alone. No, we must not strike at them, but at our own national cowardice. But, God in Heaven, Kosmopolitas. Is this the only way? In Vietnam, perhaps, but here? Is this what we have come to? And yet And yet. What is sealed in blood is sacred. For the martyrs of Lipany, for the Taborites, for Komensky, for Zizka, for our holy father Hus himself, we must not waver. These men had principles. They believed absolutely in their cause. They had no doubt. They proved that one man, or one group of unified men, can stand up to tyranny. They were the best, the flower of our nation. Their blood boiled but their spirit remained unbroken. I am proud to carry their name and their cause. I hereby place my name in the lots. My brothers, my father, you can rely on me. Truth prevails. As God is my witness, I will not fail you. Renee. The gorilla is hiding in the Sylvania again. He gibbers at me but I do not answer. I wish I could touch you, just once. J.P. while the world turns its back on us yet again. And all we can do, the great Czech people, the heirs of Hus and Zizka and Masaryk, is bow our heads and swallow this slow, bitter poison. I 182

am happy only that my father is not alive to see this day. Go to school, Renee. Learn what it means to be a human being. J.P. PATRONS ARE STRONGLY REQUESTED TO USE THIS SPACE ONLY FOR COMMENTS REGARDING THE MILLIKEN EXHIBIT. THIS IS LACMA PROPERTY AND UNAUTHORIZED USE IS PROHIBITED. THANK YOU. — Tara Wort, hall security Show is good in the hall. My family likes the show. It is berry orijinal. we think to the lady who cums in here and rites in the book. Miss, my name is Hollis, the security guard. We have to talk about your freind. Pleez see me as soon as posible. Ax for me at the counder. Say it is urgent and I will knoe it is you. H.M. like it berry berry much. WeerefromMeksico. Like it berry much. Raul Ganja, Meksico

December 23,1998 Jan. That's it. It's over. The security guard told me that you've been acting really weird, that you've been standing inside the exhibit everyday, all day, for a week now. That your mumbling all the time or something. I'm not going in there. When you see this, don't write me again. I'm not coming back. Get help, man. That's all I can say. R.

YOUR ASS SUCKS CANAL WATER

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Central Meridian

ably in Cheskoslovia too. They're gonna see my face plastered all over the place. My career is moving right along. So don't be telling me what to do. What's school gonna do for me? I need info I can use right here, right now. I don't care if you're pissed off about your country or whatever. I don't care where it is. I live in America. If there's a war or something going on then maybe you just shouldn't go back. Just never you mind. Stay here. You might be happier. You're starting to act really weird. Your making me think that maybe this has gone on too long. R. PS. Why didn't you hide your message? Miss Jean Brodie smiled at me today, so I guess we got lucky. Still got her fooled. But you better be careful or this is over! for the gumbo in the pot. Thanke. Greta Dupree Shreveport, LA Jeg syntes ikke sa godt om dette som om den Marc Chagall-udstilling, der ogsa findes i galleriet, eftersom denne udstilling - i modsaetning til Marc Chagall-vaerkerne - er kitsch. Der er ikke lagt nogen f0lelse i vaerkerne, de er blot en meningsl0s akkumulerirtg af materiale. Pa et af skiltene stod "6 guler0dder, 2 vandmeloner, vaskepulver." Skulle det kunne ber0re tilskueren felelsesmaessigt? Hr. McMillen burde indse, at det banale naeppe kan vaere nogen inspirationskilde. Vi har haft den type vaerker i Europa og deres tid er forbi. Jeg var pinligt ber0rt over at m&tte forklare rftin lille s0n, hvad saetriingerne pa vaeggen bet0d. Museet burde saette en advarsel op om den slags. Det er ikke Disneyland. Med venlig hilsen Per S0ndergaard, Alborg, Danmark December 22,1998 Occupation. Benes again. Capitulation. The reforms, the last year, erased, banished. No, we cannot repeat the Heydrich affair, that will only bring on another Lidice and Lezaky. These men are animals, I see that now. We are a proud, tiny people crushed between giants, and alone, always alone. No, we must not strike at them, but at our own national cowardice. But, God in Heaven, Kosmopolitas. Is this the only way? In Vietnam, perhaps, but here? Is this what we have come to? And yet And yet. What is sealed in blood is sacred. For the martyrs of Lipany, for the Taborites, for Komensky, for Zizka, for our holy father Hus himself, we must not waver. These men had principles. They believed absolutely in their cause. They had no doubt. They proved that one man, or one group of unified men, can stand up to tyranny. They were the best, the flower of our nation. Their blood boiled but their spirit remained unbroken. I am proud to carry their name and their cause. I hereby place my name in the lots. My brothers, my father, you can rely on me. Truth prevails. As God is my witness, I will not fail you. Renee. The gorilla is hiding in the Sylvania again. He gibbers at me but I do not answer. I wish I could touch you, just once. J.P. while the world turns its back on us yet again. And all we can do, the great Czech people, the heirs of Hus and Zizka and Masaryk, is bow our heads and swallow this slow, bitter poison. I 182

am happy only that my father is not alive to see this day. Go to school, Renee. Learn what it means to be a human being. J.P. PATRONS ARE STRONGLY REQUESTED TO USE THIS SPACE ONLY FOR COMMENTS REGARDING THE MILLIKEN EXHIBIT. THIS IS LACMA PROPERTY AND UNAUTHORIZED USE IS PROHIBITED. THANK YOU. — Tara Wort, hall security Show is good in the hall. My family likes the show. It is berry orijinal. we think to the lady who cums in here and rites in the book. Miss, my name is Hollis, the security guard. We have to talk about your freind. Pleez see me as soon as posible. Ax for me at the counder. Say it is urgent and I will knoe it is you. H.M. like it berry berry much. WeerefromMeksico. Like it berry much. Raul Ganja, Meksico

December 23,1998 Jan. That's it. It's over. The security guard told me that you've been acting really weird, that you've been standing inside the exhibit everyday, all day, for a week now. That your mumbling all the time or something. I'm not going in there. When you see this, don't write me again. I'm not coming back. Get help, man. That's all I can say. R.

YOUR ASS SUCKS CANAL WATER

183


Berkeley Fiction Review Boner11 says, "I am long and strong ready and for fricSHONN." Gonerill says, *over the weekend TIA" SarahHeartbum says, "HA HA Lance never you mind" LEONLEVY ENTERS. APHRODESIAFOXX ENTERS. MODERNMACHO LEAVES, HEADED FOR LORD DUNCENEY'S PLACE. 16J69 ENTERS. Famine says, "Oral'why don't you like Guinan? Because her name sounds too much like vagina?" Augiewren says, "fuck speilburg" SarahHeartbum says, "your birthday suit and I'll be in mine ;-)" QUASIMOD077 ENTERS.' NANCYFANCY AND STEVE88 EXECUTE A TRIPLE AXEL. Keiko says, "anybody feeling smurfy tonite?" Coldfire says, ":-ss :-E @>—,- :*)" Korkie says, "aadriaaaaaaaaaaann" Gesamkunstwerk says, "dieser Theorie kann man aber entgegenhalten" Hurll3 says, "i got my name fom the song." PETERHUTCH ENTERS. H204U LEAVES, HEADED FOR SCIENCE FAIR #3. 16J69 says, "Renee, this is Jan." CABA says, "Just go home to my den of thieves" B0NER11 OFFICIALLY DECLARES' HIMSELF AN UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT DEMIGOD. DanPussey80 says, "No fat chicks." Coldfire says, "boredom and socialism." 76* says, "save the speeches for Malcolm-X. i just wanna get laid laid laid laid" SarahHeartbum says, "Jan? Oh, hi Jan. No Digstorm, it cost $70." ASPCLASP ENTERS. SLOWSTROKE LEAVES, HEADED FOR UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT ALLEY #2. RAZZLE ENTERS. UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT / JAN. 15,1999 184

Central Meridian Coldfire says, "8-)" Hurll3 says, "Walk this Way." ChrisDivine says, "It was the name of a Czech princess, Quecho." YOUNGBERRY ENTERS. SCABFREE ENTERS. STEELROD LEAVES, HEADED FOR INTERNATIONAL ALLEY. Granta says, "didn't care fr it. B-)" 16J69 says, "Renee are you receiving my messages?" Crusty889 says, "do you like wrestling (sport)" Famine says, "anyone out here from Iowa?" 4049U says, "cabron ya te di una vez." STEELROD LEAVES. MORPHEUS40 LEAVES. SarahHeartbum says, "Jan can't write too busy lotsa PMs" Ubermensch says, "have to xfess up Carl" Candycando says, "uh uh uh" Keiko says, "LOL LOLLOLOLOL" PREGNUN LEAVES. DOCILESOUL ENTERS. LONGDONG ENTERS. BONER11 LEAVES, HEADED FOR DAYCARE CENTRAL. Bacchanalia says, "no, ron, %-)" 16J69 says, "Renee, please let us go to a private room" FinFangFoom88 says, "No comeback, Li1ley?" Praxis says, "wiggle and wobble when they cum" Quecho says, "saw disney" Sisko31 says, "bortaS blr jablu'DI'reh QaQqu'nay'" BOULDERBALLS ENTERS. 798J ENTERS. HUNGWELL ENTERS. Coldfire says, "50 fucking pages??" Jos23 says, "Never finish" Quecho says, "Mbello que edad tenes?" 16J69 says, "Renee, please let us talk in private UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT / JAN. 15,1999 185


Berkeley Fiction Review Boner11 says, "I am long and strong ready and for fricSHONN." Gonerill says, *over the weekend TIA" SarahHeartbum says, "HA HA Lance never you mind" LEONLEVY ENTERS. APHRODESIAFOXX ENTERS. MODERNMACHO LEAVES, HEADED FOR LORD DUNCENEY'S PLACE. 16J69 ENTERS. Famine says, "Oral'why don't you like Guinan? Because her name sounds too much like vagina?" Augiewren says, "fuck speilburg" SarahHeartbum says, "your birthday suit and I'll be in mine ;-)" QUASIMOD077 ENTERS.' NANCYFANCY AND STEVE88 EXECUTE A TRIPLE AXEL. Keiko says, "anybody feeling smurfy tonite?" Coldfire says, ":-ss :-E @>—,- :*)" Korkie says, "aadriaaaaaaaaaaann" Gesamkunstwerk says, "dieser Theorie kann man aber entgegenhalten" Hurll3 says, "i got my name fom the song." PETERHUTCH ENTERS. H204U LEAVES, HEADED FOR SCIENCE FAIR #3. 16J69 says, "Renee, this is Jan." CABA says, "Just go home to my den of thieves" B0NER11 OFFICIALLY DECLARES' HIMSELF AN UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT DEMIGOD. DanPussey80 says, "No fat chicks." Coldfire says, "boredom and socialism." 76* says, "save the speeches for Malcolm-X. i just wanna get laid laid laid laid" SarahHeartbum says, "Jan? Oh, hi Jan. No Digstorm, it cost $70." ASPCLASP ENTERS. SLOWSTROKE LEAVES, HEADED FOR UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT ALLEY #2. RAZZLE ENTERS. UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT / JAN. 15,1999 184

Central Meridian Coldfire says, "8-)" Hurll3 says, "Walk this Way." ChrisDivine says, "It was the name of a Czech princess, Quecho." YOUNGBERRY ENTERS. SCABFREE ENTERS. STEELROD LEAVES, HEADED FOR INTERNATIONAL ALLEY. Granta says, "didn't care fr it. B-)" 16J69 says, "Renee are you receiving my messages?" Crusty889 says, "do you like wrestling (sport)" Famine says, "anyone out here from Iowa?" 4049U says, "cabron ya te di una vez." STEELROD LEAVES. MORPHEUS40 LEAVES. SarahHeartbum says, "Jan can't write too busy lotsa PMs" Ubermensch says, "have to xfess up Carl" Candycando says, "uh uh uh" Keiko says, "LOL LOLLOLOLOL" PREGNUN LEAVES. DOCILESOUL ENTERS. LONGDONG ENTERS. BONER11 LEAVES, HEADED FOR DAYCARE CENTRAL. Bacchanalia says, "no, ron, %-)" 16J69 says, "Renee, please let us go to a private room" FinFangFoom88 says, "No comeback, Li1ley?" Praxis says, "wiggle and wobble when they cum" Quecho says, "saw disney" Sisko31 says, "bortaS blr jablu'DI'reh QaQqu'nay'" BOULDERBALLS ENTERS. 798J ENTERS. HUNGWELL ENTERS. Coldfire says, "50 fucking pages??" Jos23 says, "Never finish" Quecho says, "Mbello que edad tenes?" 16J69 says, "Renee, please let us talk in private UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT / JAN. 15,1999 185


Berkeley Fiction Review room or give me your number" LanceCarbuncles says, "all women in this room bend over NOW" THULE ENTERS. LISHA16 LEAVES, HEADED FOR ICE CREAM PARLOR. EPIPHANY26169 LEAVES. Nettuno says, "te acuerdas de mi" Mechoui says, "yeah fat chicks suck — literally LOL" FULVING LEAVES, MOONING THE ROOM, HEADED FOR CHAT ALLEY. Mentosing says, "18 hours is long time to type" Famine says, "Prozack, where did you go." SarahHeartbum says, "Pass the Red Stripe yall. Jan busy later" Llopis says, "Hi Rockin, pull my finger" POET100 LEAVES, HEADED FOR INTERNATIONAL. ALEXANDRA X AND GECKO GET IT ON BY THE BAR. Triack says, "Matlock, Baretta and the Hendersons" TB68 says, "si, si, cosi, cosi, cosi" Resilient says, "good one SarahH LOL" Ostrichprick says, *sugarbabay you a man or a woman" SHAON691 ENTERS. Mbello says, "til it dried up" SarahHeartbum says, "Jan enough awready Praxis, that's gross" Funnyegyptncamel says, "8:-) :-*" ASPCLASP LEAVES, GIVING COLDFIRE THE FINGER. DARIUS ENTERS. SHOSHONE ENTERS. Chestmolester says,"8th grade." SarahHeartbum says, "Jan, stop PMing me" Valleygay says, "Pepino your going to feel like shit tomorrow" FRANCINE7 ENTERS. DODO LEAVES. LEONLEVY LEAVES, HEADED FOR CHURCH. Jos23 says, "Sam won't mind" UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT / JAN. 15,1999 186

Central Meridian Mirrostage says, "is it ralph or rafe?" Turdburger says, ":-@ :-@ :-@ :-@ :-@ :-@ :-@ :-@ : -@ :-@ :-@ :-@ :-@ :-@ :-@" THULE LEAVES. CHIPG LEAVES. LanceCarbuncles says, "you ain't got it in the hips you better have it in the lips." SarahHeartbum says, "Jan pissing me off serious" Julie41 says, "oh, do you think she really meant it? sometimes they just says that" Funnyegyptncamel says, "K:P C=}>;*{)) CU" PepeP says, "odin Tviks, pozhayulsta" COLDFIRE LEAVES. SARAHHEARTBURN LEAVES, HEADED FOR PRIVATE ROOM Boulderballs says, "you can take the but you ca't" Cathystrap says, "going to bed" 16J69 YOU HAVE LEFT CHATHOUSE ROMANCE #57, HEADED FOR PRIVATE ROOM 16J69 YOU HAVE ENTERED PRIVATE ROOM 16J69: Are you there? SarahHeartbum: Okay, here we are. 16J69: Is your attention fully in here? SarahHeartbum: Yes yes 16J69: Sorry to drag you away from there SarahHeartbum: Jan, what do you want 16J69: You are angry SarahHeartbum: I thought we were going to keep this fun UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT/JAN. 15,1999 187


Berkeley Fiction Review room or give me your number" LanceCarbuncles says, "all women in this room bend over NOW" THULE ENTERS. LISHA16 LEAVES, HEADED FOR ICE CREAM PARLOR. EPIPHANY26169 LEAVES. Nettuno says, "te acuerdas de mi" Mechoui says, "yeah fat chicks suck — literally LOL" FULVING LEAVES, MOONING THE ROOM, HEADED FOR CHAT ALLEY. Mentosing says, "18 hours is long time to type" Famine says, "Prozack, where did you go." SarahHeartbum says, "Pass the Red Stripe yall. Jan busy later" Llopis says, "Hi Rockin, pull my finger" POET100 LEAVES, HEADED FOR INTERNATIONAL. ALEXANDRA X AND GECKO GET IT ON BY THE BAR. Triack says, "Matlock, Baretta and the Hendersons" TB68 says, "si, si, cosi, cosi, cosi" Resilient says, "good one SarahH LOL" Ostrichprick says, *sugarbabay you a man or a woman" SHAON691 ENTERS. Mbello says, "til it dried up" SarahHeartbum says, "Jan enough awready Praxis, that's gross" Funnyegyptncamel says, "8:-) :-*" ASPCLASP LEAVES, GIVING COLDFIRE THE FINGER. DARIUS ENTERS. SHOSHONE ENTERS. Chestmolester says,"8th grade." SarahHeartbum says, "Jan, stop PMing me" Valleygay says, "Pepino your going to feel like shit tomorrow" FRANCINE7 ENTERS. DODO LEAVES. LEONLEVY LEAVES, HEADED FOR CHURCH. Jos23 says, "Sam won't mind" UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT / JAN. 15,1999 186

Central Meridian Mirrostage says, "is it ralph or rafe?" Turdburger says, ":-@ :-@ :-@ :-@ :-@ :-@ :-@ :-@ : -@ :-@ :-@ :-@ :-@ :-@ :-@" THULE LEAVES. CHIPG LEAVES. LanceCarbuncles says, "you ain't got it in the hips you better have it in the lips." SarahHeartbum says, "Jan pissing me off serious" Julie41 says, "oh, do you think she really meant it? sometimes they just says that" Funnyegyptncamel says, "K:P C=}>;*{)) CU" PepeP says, "odin Tviks, pozhayulsta" COLDFIRE LEAVES. SARAHHEARTBURN LEAVES, HEADED FOR PRIVATE ROOM Boulderballs says, "you can take the but you ca't" Cathystrap says, "going to bed" 16J69 YOU HAVE LEFT CHATHOUSE ROMANCE #57, HEADED FOR PRIVATE ROOM 16J69 YOU HAVE ENTERED PRIVATE ROOM 16J69: Are you there? SarahHeartbum: Okay, here we are. 16J69: Is your attention fully in here? SarahHeartbum: Yes yes 16J69: Sorry to drag you away from there SarahHeartbum: Jan, what do you want 16J69: You are angry SarahHeartbum: I thought we were going to keep this fun UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT/JAN. 15,1999 187


Berkeley Fiction Review

Central Meridian

16J69: Renee, I'm scared

SarahHeartbum: Don't write me anymore

SarahHeartbum: What are you taking about

16J69: For Opletal, for Hus, for Zuzka. It must be done. What is sealed with blood is sacred. What is sealed with blood is sacred Ren help me.

16J69: What is sealed with blood is sacred. SarahHeartbum: Say what? 16J69: What is sealed with blood is sacred. Everyone denouncing, turning in their friends. The winter so cold, dark. They see tanks and even Dubcek caves in why why I am not What is sealed with blood is sacred. SarahHeartbum: Jan, i don't know what you're talking about and I dont care. I told you in that book that it's over

SarahHeartbum: Leave me alone. I hate you. Don't ever write me again, you sick fuck. This town is full of liars, sickos. Fuck off, asshole SARAHHEARTBURN LEAVES, HEADED FOR CHAT ALLEY SARAHHEARTBURN IS NO LONGER LOGGED ON TO UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT 16J69: ds984 16J69: fd98tIEU893T.0289dfihd57

16J69: What is sealed with blood is sacred. There must be sacrifices, mother, there must be sacrifices you must understand SarahHeartbum: Jan, this isn't funny at all. This is iiot the way to make up with me I'm warning you. 16J69: Maminko, if you had read Capek's Mother you -would know, that there always must be sacrifices what is sealed with blood is sacred

16J69 DO YOU WISH TO CONTINUE?

16J69 YOU HAVE BEEN IDLE FOR SOME TIME. DO YOU WISH TO CONTINUE?

16J69:

.SarahHeartbum: I'm going to get off now. your sick :16J69: They'll see. They'll understand. What is :sealed with blood is sacred. This will shine the path for them all. We must not only have great thoughts, we must not only be able to pronounce them. We must be able to realize them. It is horrible but it must be done What is sealed with blood is scared. UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT / JAN. 15,1999 188

16J69: The number of conflicts is not only growing, but some conflicts are becoming perpetual (e.g., Vietnam). Humanity is going astray, its existence is in its own hands and a change in its consciousness (the mentality of humanity) is one of the vital conditions for the furtherance of human life. Otherwise the monstrous powers which man has constructed UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT / JAN. 15,1999 189


Berkeley Fiction Review

Central Meridian

16J69: Renee, I'm scared

SarahHeartbum: Don't write me anymore

SarahHeartbum: What are you taking about

16J69: For Opletal, for Hus, for Zuzka. It must be done. What is sealed with blood is sacred. What is sealed with blood is sacred Ren help me.

16J69: What is sealed with blood is sacred. SarahHeartbum: Say what? 16J69: What is sealed with blood is sacred. Everyone denouncing, turning in their friends. The winter so cold, dark. They see tanks and even Dubcek caves in why why I am not What is sealed with blood is sacred. SarahHeartbum: Jan, i don't know what you're talking about and I dont care. I told you in that book that it's over

SarahHeartbum: Leave me alone. I hate you. Don't ever write me again, you sick fuck. This town is full of liars, sickos. Fuck off, asshole SARAHHEARTBURN LEAVES, HEADED FOR CHAT ALLEY SARAHHEARTBURN IS NO LONGER LOGGED ON TO UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT 16J69: ds984 16J69: fd98tIEU893T.0289dfihd57

16J69: What is sealed with blood is sacred. There must be sacrifices, mother, there must be sacrifices you must understand SarahHeartbum: Jan, this isn't funny at all. This is iiot the way to make up with me I'm warning you. 16J69: Maminko, if you had read Capek's Mother you -would know, that there always must be sacrifices what is sealed with blood is sacred

16J69 DO YOU WISH TO CONTINUE?

16J69 YOU HAVE BEEN IDLE FOR SOME TIME. DO YOU WISH TO CONTINUE?

16J69:

.SarahHeartbum: I'm going to get off now. your sick :16J69: They'll see. They'll understand. What is :sealed with blood is sacred. This will shine the path for them all. We must not only have great thoughts, we must not only be able to pronounce them. We must be able to realize them. It is horrible but it must be done What is sealed with blood is scared. UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT / JAN. 15,1999 188

16J69: The number of conflicts is not only growing, but some conflicts are becoming perpetual (e.g., Vietnam). Humanity is going astray, its existence is in its own hands and a change in its consciousness (the mentality of humanity) is one of the vital conditions for the furtherance of human life. Otherwise the monstrous powers which man has constructed UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT / JAN. 15,1999 189


Berkeley Fiction Review will destroy their creator. It-this transformation of consciousness—is therefore necessary, for only a self-aware humanity (self-aware in toto) is capable of resolving the fundamental divisions (political, ideological, social, and cultural) of today's society. Once it has surmounted these divisions, humanity will achieve balance with itself, and start on a path of much faster advancement than today. 16J69: In this stage humanity would stride forth as an integrated, homogenous entity, distinguished by the expeditious development of its thinking, the realization of gigantic projects 16J69: Obstructing this unity, however, are political, economic, ideological, and other impediments. But humanity, if it wants to live, must realize this integration 16J69: 9jggr3\84tt9=

Central Meridian

1) immediate elimination of censorship, 2) prohibition on the distribution of Zpravy. If our demands are not fulfilled within five days by January 21, 1969, and if the people do not support us sufficiently through a strike of indefinite duration, more torches will burn. Remember August. In international politics a place was made for Czechoslovakia. Let us use it. - Torch Number One 16J69 YOU HAVE LEFT PRIVATE ROOM, HEADED FOR CHAT ALLEY 16J69 YOU ARE NO LONGER LOGGED ON TO UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT SEE YOU SOON!

16J69: d9fids-=4t6+nOIREKoity969 16J69: 16J69: J.6J69: J.6J69: Because our nations are on the brink of despair we have decided to express our protest and wake uip the people of this land. Our group is composed of ^volunteers who are willing to burn themselves for our "cause. It was my honor to draw lot number one and thus I acquired the privilege of writing the first letter and starting as the first torch. Our demands are: UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT / JAN. 15,1999 190

UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT/JAN. 15,1999 191


Berkeley Fiction Review will destroy their creator. It-this transformation of consciousness—is therefore necessary, for only a self-aware humanity (self-aware in toto) is capable of resolving the fundamental divisions (political, ideological, social, and cultural) of today's society. Once it has surmounted these divisions, humanity will achieve balance with itself, and start on a path of much faster advancement than today. 16J69: In this stage humanity would stride forth as an integrated, homogenous entity, distinguished by the expeditious development of its thinking, the realization of gigantic projects 16J69: Obstructing this unity, however, are political, economic, ideological, and other impediments. But humanity, if it wants to live, must realize this integration 16J69: 9jggr3\84tt9=

Central Meridian

1) immediate elimination of censorship, 2) prohibition on the distribution of Zpravy. If our demands are not fulfilled within five days by January 21, 1969, and if the people do not support us sufficiently through a strike of indefinite duration, more torches will burn. Remember August. In international politics a place was made for Czechoslovakia. Let us use it. - Torch Number One 16J69 YOU HAVE LEFT PRIVATE ROOM, HEADED FOR CHAT ALLEY 16J69 YOU ARE NO LONGER LOGGED ON TO UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT SEE YOU SOON!

16J69: d9fids-=4t6+nOIREKoity969 16J69: 16J69: J.6J69: J.6J69: Because our nations are on the brink of despair we have decided to express our protest and wake uip the people of this land. Our group is composed of ^volunteers who are willing to burn themselves for our "cause. It was my honor to draw lot number one and thus I acquired the privilege of writing the first letter and starting as the first torch. Our demands are: UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT / JAN. 15,1999 190

UP-ALL-NIGHT CHAT/JAN. 15,1999 191


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Berkeley Fiction Review

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(Jan. 17) Another bizarre suicide, this time outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, shocked residents and tourists Saturday, reigniting concern that a new wave of millenium-inspired mass suicides might be in store for the city. A Hispanic male, 20-25 years old, set himself ablaze before stunned gallery visitors in the LACMA's central Rupert Murdoch courtyard at about 3 p.m., during the museum's busiest afternoon period and in the middle of a performance by the West African Yoruba House Band. "He poured gasoline on himself, then just lit a match and WHOOP! up he went," said Gerry Bonior, a tourist from Evanston, IL. It sounded like a big blanket being flapped, you know, a big whoosh. He looked really calm." Security staff immediately evacuated visitors and extinguished the flames, but the man suffered burns over 85% of his body and was declared dead on arrival at LA County Hospital. Witnesses said the man was conscious after the flames were put 192

out, and trying to speak. "He was mumbling something about reports, or something, coming in from all over the country," said Belle Abbal, a museum staff member. "I heard him say very clearly, 'I am not a suicide!' It was horrible." LAPD detective Karl Freund said the police believe this to be the act of a disturbed individual and not part of a new series of suicides. Officials are anxious to allay fears in light of last summer's epidemic of self-inflicted deaths and mass suicides, most of them blamed on apocalyptic hysteria surrounding the new millennium. "The last thing we want the public to think is this is Rancho Santa Fe or the Universal Studios thing all over again," said Freund. "This man was clearly acting alone. He was apparently under the delusion that this was 'performance art.'" But there is strong evidence that the man might have planned the incident with others for at least the last few months, according to several museum staff members

who said they had seen him come in often and who believed he might have been communicating with someone else through one of the gallery's visitor notebooks. "He was a regular," said Tara Wort, who oversees security in the museum's Armand Hammer building. "We get folks like him. He would come in day in, day out, write in the book, stare at the artwork. There's more like him than you think." The man spent most of his time studying one work, the "installation" piece "Central Meridian" by Santa Monica artist Michael Milleken, on the second floor of the museum's Burt Ward hall. Milleken could not be reached for comment. One museum worker, who refused to be named, said the man was corresponding with a woman and possibly one other person through the notebook, which lies on a podium accessible to the public, inside the hall. The worker refused to elaborate. The LAPD confiscated the visitor's notebook and is currently examining it for clues, Freund said. The deceased man's identity is being withheld pending notification of next of kin, though officials did confirm the man was an actor and a Los Angeleno. Most bystanders atfirstthought the incident was an "art action" or "publicity stunt" for the upcoming Fantastic Four movie, which premieres Feb. 28-until it became obvious that the man was really on fire. "I thought it was, like, part of the ticket price," said Cameron

Croix, of Phoenix, AZ. "We were like, 'Hey, look at that. Cool. Flame on dude.'" "There was no warning, no announcement, so I knew this was either part of the African cultural program or something else, something seriously wrong," added Ethel Krolik, of Hampstead, England. "Our trip has certainly been made memorable now, hasn't it?" The Yoruba House Band continued its performance shortly after the victim's evacuation. The musicians recited a short prayer for the man's welfare.

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by Jackie Swann LA Times Staff

(Jan. 17) Another bizarre suicide, this time outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, shocked residents and tourists Saturday, reigniting concern that a new wave of millenium-inspired mass suicides might be in store for the city. A Hispanic male, 20-25 years old, set himself ablaze before stunned gallery visitors in the LACMA's central Rupert Murdoch courtyard at about 3 p.m., during the museum's busiest afternoon period and in the middle of a performance by the West African Yoruba House Band. "He poured gasoline on himself, then just lit a match and WHOOP! up he went," said Gerry Bonior, a tourist from Evanston, IL. It sounded like a big blanket being flapped, you know, a big whoosh. He looked really calm." Security staff immediately evacuated visitors and extinguished the flames, but the man suffered burns over 85% of his body and was declared dead on arrival at LA County Hospital. Witnesses said the man was conscious after the flames were put 192

out, and trying to speak. "He was mumbling something about reports, or something, coming in from all over the country," said Belle Abbal, a museum staff member. "I heard him say very clearly, 'I am not a suicide!' It was horrible." LAPD detective Karl Freund said the police believe this to be the act of a disturbed individual and not part of a new series of suicides. Officials are anxious to allay fears in light of last summer's epidemic of self-inflicted deaths and mass suicides, most of them blamed on apocalyptic hysteria surrounding the new millennium. "The last thing we want the public to think is this is Rancho Santa Fe or the Universal Studios thing all over again," said Freund. "This man was clearly acting alone. He was apparently under the delusion that this was 'performance art.'" But there is strong evidence that the man might have planned the incident with others for at least the last few months, according to several museum staff members

who said they had seen him come in often and who believed he might have been communicating with someone else through one of the gallery's visitor notebooks. "He was a regular," said Tara Wort, who oversees security in the museum's Armand Hammer building. "We get folks like him. He would come in day in, day out, write in the book, stare at the artwork. There's more like him than you think." The man spent most of his time studying one work, the "installation" piece "Central Meridian" by Santa Monica artist Michael Milleken, on the second floor of the museum's Burt Ward hall. Milleken could not be reached for comment. One museum worker, who refused to be named, said the man was corresponding with a woman and possibly one other person through the notebook, which lies on a podium accessible to the public, inside the hall. The worker refused to elaborate. The LAPD confiscated the visitor's notebook and is currently examining it for clues, Freund said. The deceased man's identity is being withheld pending notification of next of kin, though officials did confirm the man was an actor and a Los Angeleno. Most bystanders atfirstthought the incident was an "art action" or "publicity stunt" for the upcoming Fantastic Four movie, which premieres Feb. 28-until it became obvious that the man was really on fire. "I thought it was, like, part of the ticket price," said Cameron

Croix, of Phoenix, AZ. "We were like, 'Hey, look at that. Cool. Flame on dude.'" "There was no warning, no announcement, so I knew this was either part of the African cultural program or something else, something seriously wrong," added Ethel Krolik, of Hampstead, England. "Our trip has certainly been made memorable now, hasn't it?" The Yoruba House Band continued its performance shortly after the victim's evacuation. The musicians recited a short prayer for the man's welfare.

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Berkeley Fiction Review

L A C M A ' s H i m s e l f

' H u m a n Torch'

R e i n c a r n a t e d

B e l i e v e d

Protester

byHueyPlanchet LA Examiner (Jan 18) Juan Dunlap, the man who burned himself to death at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art cm Satuiday acted under the belief that he was a 19^pt)testerfnomEastoiiEuiope, police said yesterday. He sent aletter to the city government the day of the incident explaining why he did it, which was exactly, word for word, like Palach's suicide note," said police chief Gil Hrandt. "That, plus his last words, helped us solve the mystery." Police also received calls from around the country after the incident was reported in the national news, which helped establish the bizarre event's significance. I was completely bamboozled when I saw it, when I realized the date and the time and everything else," said Frantisek Giozs, a professor of Slavic Languages at UCLA He matched everything perfectly, down to the clothes, thetimeofday. I've never heard of anything like this." Jan. 16 was the 30th anniversary of the Palach suicide, which took place on Prague's Wenceslas Square in the wake of the Soviet Bloc's reversal of Czechoslovak liberal reforms known as the "Prague Spring." Palach is consideied a martyr and hero to the Czech people. There is no other known instance of someone copying his act so precisely. Dunlap allegedly even managed to run the same number of steps 194

while onfireas Palach did. Dunlap, originally from Rolling Rock, Texas, was a bit actor in the local theater scene, although he had not worked professionally for at least two years. He had a history of depression and antisocial tendencies, said Ward Woodrow of the fringe theater Polanski's Puppets. Dunlap had previously starred in a one-man show based on Palach in Texas, but Ilieard it was pretty bad," he added Most specialists agree that Dunlap sufferedfrom"extreme identification" or "Single White Female Syndrome," perhaps brought on by extreme depression, mental illness, or stress. Because our nations are on the brink of despair we have decided to express our protest and to wake up the people of this land.. .In international politics a place was made for Czechoslovakia Let us use it," read part of Dunlap/Palach's note, in which he referred to himself as 'Torch Number One." The Czech consulate had no comment on the tragedy. Dunlap had in recent weeks approached the museum about staging an "action" in the building's hreezeway, but was refused several times, said LACMA executive director Harry Bergson. Dunlap, afrequentvisitor to the gallery and well-known to the staff, would sometimes spend hours a day inside one of the museums "installa-

tion" pieces. We need to check people's driver's licenses, passports, something," said security chief Tara Watt "This sort of thing is just going to happen again and again." Indeed, there is some concern that Dunlap's act might initiate a "historical suicide" fad in the city, although some hair-splitters pointed out that Dunlap failed to duplicate the 1%9 incident in all its details. Dunlap died en route to the hospital, while Palach expiredafull three days after setting himselfon fire. I guess you can't really control that," said Red Dem, president of the LA chapter of the Society forCreative Anachronism. But it was still quite a re-creation I heard that inside the ambulance he was saying Palach's last words down to the letter, verbatim. Whoa. You can't get more post-modem than that" Dunlap's apartment was found to be full of Palach and Czech memorabilia, Hrandt added. Dunlap's family refused to comment on the death His body will be cremated in aprivate ceremony in Eagle Pass, Texas on Wednesday, according to a spokesman. Despitereportsthat Dunlap was acting in conjunction with a"woman" he wrote letters tor through one of LACMA's visitor's comments notebooks, the police said Saturday they consider the case closed. Theyreuimedthe notebook to the museum yesterday, saying they found no concrete evidence of a conspiracy.

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Berkeley Fiction Review

L A C M A ' s H i m s e l f

' H u m a n Torch'

R e i n c a r n a t e d

B e l i e v e d

Protester

byHueyPlanchet LA Examiner (Jan 18) Juan Dunlap, the man who burned himself to death at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art cm Satuiday acted under the belief that he was a 19^pt)testerfnomEastoiiEuiope, police said yesterday. He sent aletter to the city government the day of the incident explaining why he did it, which was exactly, word for word, like Palach's suicide note," said police chief Gil Hrandt. "That, plus his last words, helped us solve the mystery." Police also received calls from around the country after the incident was reported in the national news, which helped establish the bizarre event's significance. I was completely bamboozled when I saw it, when I realized the date and the time and everything else," said Frantisek Giozs, a professor of Slavic Languages at UCLA He matched everything perfectly, down to the clothes, thetimeofday. I've never heard of anything like this." Jan. 16 was the 30th anniversary of the Palach suicide, which took place on Prague's Wenceslas Square in the wake of the Soviet Bloc's reversal of Czechoslovak liberal reforms known as the "Prague Spring." Palach is consideied a martyr and hero to the Czech people. There is no other known instance of someone copying his act so precisely. Dunlap allegedly even managed to run the same number of steps 194

while onfireas Palach did. Dunlap, originally from Rolling Rock, Texas, was a bit actor in the local theater scene, although he had not worked professionally for at least two years. He had a history of depression and antisocial tendencies, said Ward Woodrow of the fringe theater Polanski's Puppets. Dunlap had previously starred in a one-man show based on Palach in Texas, but Ilieard it was pretty bad," he added Most specialists agree that Dunlap sufferedfrom"extreme identification" or "Single White Female Syndrome," perhaps brought on by extreme depression, mental illness, or stress. Because our nations are on the brink of despair we have decided to express our protest and to wake up the people of this land.. .In international politics a place was made for Czechoslovakia Let us use it," read part of Dunlap/Palach's note, in which he referred to himself as 'Torch Number One." The Czech consulate had no comment on the tragedy. Dunlap had in recent weeks approached the museum about staging an "action" in the building's hreezeway, but was refused several times, said LACMA executive director Harry Bergson. Dunlap, afrequentvisitor to the gallery and well-known to the staff, would sometimes spend hours a day inside one of the museums "installa-

tion" pieces. We need to check people's driver's licenses, passports, something," said security chief Tara Watt "This sort of thing is just going to happen again and again." Indeed, there is some concern that Dunlap's act might initiate a "historical suicide" fad in the city, although some hair-splitters pointed out that Dunlap failed to duplicate the 1%9 incident in all its details. Dunlap died en route to the hospital, while Palach expiredafull three days after setting himselfon fire. I guess you can't really control that," said Red Dem, president of the LA chapter of the Society forCreative Anachronism. But it was still quite a re-creation I heard that inside the ambulance he was saying Palach's last words down to the letter, verbatim. Whoa. You can't get more post-modem than that" Dunlap's apartment was found to be full of Palach and Czech memorabilia, Hrandt added. Dunlap's family refused to comment on the death His body will be cremated in aprivate ceremony in Eagle Pass, Texas on Wednesday, according to a spokesman. Despitereportsthat Dunlap was acting in conjunction with a"woman" he wrote letters tor through one of LACMA's visitor's comments notebooks, the police said Saturday they consider the case closed. Theyreuimedthe notebook to the museum yesterday, saying they found no concrete evidence of a conspiracy.

195


Berkeley Fiction Review

Central Meridian January 23,1999

(Variety—LA, Jan. 21)Gold Calf Entertainment has inked a $2 m i l deal to produce a television mini-series o n the life of Juan Dunlap, the small-time actor w h o burned himself to death outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art last Saturday. The story, based o n details supplied b y Tara Wort, security chief at LACMA, promises "spicy sex and digitally e n h a n c ed computer generated effects" during the climactic burn scene, according to Gold Calf. Production is slated to begin in early March, u n d e r director Ciaran Gere, w h o is attached with Manna Productions. Location shooting will take place in LA, with set work at the Warner Bros, studios. Second unit production is scheduled for New Orleans. Dunlap died believing h e was a European protester from 1979. Joaquin Phoenix, originally slated to star as the troubled actor, ankled from the project yesterday after a contract dispute. Gere and Manna are currently looking for an u n k n o wn to play the demanding role. Look for Light My Fire: The Juan Dunlap Story to run o n NBC during the May sweeps. Regina Starr

C o m e t Boy R e t u r n i n g to Earth! In an incredible new chapter to the story of Juan "Human Torch" Dunlap, psychics this week reiiealed that the spirit of the trayic Lfl suicide, who set himself on fire because of his homosexuality, is shooting back to Earth from space at 108,886 miles per hour! The stunning news was confirmed by astronomers, who reported seeing the Hale-Bopp comet stop, twist, and suddenly change course to once again intersect the Earth! It should arriue late this year, when Dunlap will leap from the comet and streak across the sky, they said. "He feels his mission on this plane is not yet finished," said psychic Nora Ueil of the International Paranormal Center in Tuskegee, IL. "He originally wanted to join the Heauen's Gate astronauts on the comet, but the widespread sympathy for him back home has made him change his mind." In another amazing discouery, the Weekly National Star has learned that astronomers actually snapped photos of Dunlap on board the comet spacecraft! The pictures show the burned teenager wauing to his former planet w i t h HG leaders Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles as well as Eluis standing by his 196

Dear Juan, Today Hollis gave me the envelope you left for me, the one that had the chat session print-outs and our pages from the LACMA book. Hollis said you came in the morning of your suicide to give him the envelope. Hollis asked if you were okay and said that I had been worried about you (a lie), but you had no reaction, he said. You gave him the envelope and didn't go in to the exhibit. Since you weren't doing anything unusual and you didn't want to talk to him, Hollis couldn't stop you and you walked out. He's a nice guy, Hollis. He was really concerned about you and felt, I think, worse than anybody about what happened—even though he knew the least. Yes, he had been reading our messages, but only sporadically and not completely understanding. I don't have that excuse. You died a week ago, and today I think I understand why. And that makes me feel ashamed, and stupid and a cold, useless, ugly bitch. Juan, I want to be honest with you. My name is Carla. I'm black. I'm 37, five feet, one inch tall, and weigh 162 pounds. I work as a temp, have been since I moved out to LA ten years ago. My parents, originally from Boston, put me through two years of Dartmouth before cutting me off, because they said I was lazy and stupid. I studied art. I didn't go home for my father's funeral. He died of a stroke. In the shower. He was not cremated. I used to get pleasurefromthe idea of his stinking, rotting corpse stuffing the worms. But not anymore. They make the coffins too good for that, anyway. No worms. I want to be honest with you, Juan. That's all I want now. I need to be. So I have to tell you everything. Everyday I get up, I go to work. Toyota Corolla, 1981, still works pretty good. After work I come home. I live alone. I had a bird but it died. I come home, eat talce-out (there's a cheap Chinese place down the street, or else Wendy's or KFC or Burger King or Big Kahuna or Mickie Dee's or Pizza Hut or Curio's or Jack in the Box or Shoshoney's or Texadelphia or TGIFriday's or Taco Quemado or Lalo's or Sudden Pasta or Fatburger or Tony's or Cicio's or Jane's American or Sal's Famous or Capone's or Denny's or Sambo's or Crusty s or Mama's or Amy's or Spot Burger or Pato's or Yang Chow or Ali Baba or Bugsy s or Juan's or Subway or Ay Caramba or Strizzi's or Shamrock's or Taco Hell or Dynamite or Gina's or Toy or Ramiro & Sons or Durango or Mosh Pit or La Salsa or Long John's or Jade Palace or Hamburger Hamlet or Miller's Barbecue or Hamas or Szechuan City or Double Clutch or Le Cabash or Fenton's or Mel's or Happy Burrito or Red Tomato or Torta Loca or Arthur's or Taco Cabana or O'Brien's or CM. Steakhouse or Cholesterol or China Explosion or Great Wall or Burns' or Spike's or No. 14 or Klieglights or 197


Berkeley Fiction Review

Central Meridian January 23,1999

(Variety—LA, Jan. 21)Gold Calf Entertainment has inked a $2 m i l deal to produce a television mini-series o n the life of Juan Dunlap, the small-time actor w h o burned himself to death outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art last Saturday. The story, based o n details supplied b y Tara Wort, security chief at LACMA, promises "spicy sex and digitally e n h a n c ed computer generated effects" during the climactic burn scene, according to Gold Calf. Production is slated to begin in early March, u n d e r director Ciaran Gere, w h o is attached with Manna Productions. Location shooting will take place in LA, with set work at the Warner Bros, studios. Second unit production is scheduled for New Orleans. Dunlap died believing h e was a European protester from 1979. Joaquin Phoenix, originally slated to star as the troubled actor, ankled from the project yesterday after a contract dispute. Gere and Manna are currently looking for an u n k n o wn to play the demanding role. Look for Light My Fire: The Juan Dunlap Story to run o n NBC during the May sweeps. Regina Starr

C o m e t Boy R e t u r n i n g to Earth! In an incredible new chapter to the story of Juan "Human Torch" Dunlap, psychics this week reiiealed that the spirit of the trayic Lfl suicide, who set himself on fire because of his homosexuality, is shooting back to Earth from space at 108,886 miles per hour! The stunning news was confirmed by astronomers, who reported seeing the Hale-Bopp comet stop, twist, and suddenly change course to once again intersect the Earth! It should arriue late this year, when Dunlap will leap from the comet and streak across the sky, they said. "He feels his mission on this plane is not yet finished," said psychic Nora Ueil of the International Paranormal Center in Tuskegee, IL. "He originally wanted to join the Heauen's Gate astronauts on the comet, but the widespread sympathy for him back home has made him change his mind." In another amazing discouery, the Weekly National Star has learned that astronomers actually snapped photos of Dunlap on board the comet spacecraft! The pictures show the burned teenager wauing to his former planet w i t h HG leaders Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles as well as Eluis standing by his 196

Dear Juan, Today Hollis gave me the envelope you left for me, the one that had the chat session print-outs and our pages from the LACMA book. Hollis said you came in the morning of your suicide to give him the envelope. Hollis asked if you were okay and said that I had been worried about you (a lie), but you had no reaction, he said. You gave him the envelope and didn't go in to the exhibit. Since you weren't doing anything unusual and you didn't want to talk to him, Hollis couldn't stop you and you walked out. He's a nice guy, Hollis. He was really concerned about you and felt, I think, worse than anybody about what happened—even though he knew the least. Yes, he had been reading our messages, but only sporadically and not completely understanding. I don't have that excuse. You died a week ago, and today I think I understand why. And that makes me feel ashamed, and stupid and a cold, useless, ugly bitch. Juan, I want to be honest with you. My name is Carla. I'm black. I'm 37, five feet, one inch tall, and weigh 162 pounds. I work as a temp, have been since I moved out to LA ten years ago. My parents, originally from Boston, put me through two years of Dartmouth before cutting me off, because they said I was lazy and stupid. I studied art. I didn't go home for my father's funeral. He died of a stroke. In the shower. He was not cremated. I used to get pleasurefromthe idea of his stinking, rotting corpse stuffing the worms. But not anymore. They make the coffins too good for that, anyway. No worms. I want to be honest with you, Juan. That's all I want now. I need to be. So I have to tell you everything. Everyday I get up, I go to work. Toyota Corolla, 1981, still works pretty good. After work I come home. I live alone. I had a bird but it died. I come home, eat talce-out (there's a cheap Chinese place down the street, or else Wendy's or KFC or Burger King or Big Kahuna or Mickie Dee's or Pizza Hut or Curio's or Jack in the Box or Shoshoney's or Texadelphia or TGIFriday's or Taco Quemado or Lalo's or Sudden Pasta or Fatburger or Tony's or Cicio's or Jane's American or Sal's Famous or Capone's or Denny's or Sambo's or Crusty s or Mama's or Amy's or Spot Burger or Pato's or Yang Chow or Ali Baba or Bugsy s or Juan's or Subway or Ay Caramba or Strizzi's or Shamrock's or Taco Hell or Dynamite or Gina's or Toy or Ramiro & Sons or Durango or Mosh Pit or La Salsa or Long John's or Jade Palace or Hamburger Hamlet or Miller's Barbecue or Hamas or Szechuan City or Double Clutch or Le Cabash or Fenton's or Mel's or Happy Burrito or Red Tomato or Torta Loca or Arthur's or Taco Cabana or O'Brien's or CM. Steakhouse or Cholesterol or China Explosion or Great Wall or Burns' or Spike's or No. 14 or Klieglights or 197


Berkeley Fiction Review Charlie Chaplin's or Clint's or Basta Pasta or Spuds or Enchilada Heaven or Tannebaum's or Grease Monkey or Blake's or Chik Fil'a or Gatti's or Terminal Cancer or I sit and watch TV and eat some more. Working as a temp gives me lots x>f time off. I only work if I feel like it. I try to save up enough money so I don't have to work for months. Just stay home. Order out. My kitchen floor; is covered with old newspaper. Sometimes I pee on myself. All the windows are sealed with caulk, curtained. I hear the neighbors, their dog dragging himself along my ceiling like a worm. I watch TV, a little 20 incher, color, Sylvania, that gets great reception. I don't care about cable or HDTV. There's always something on. I smoke and eat and fart and belch and bite my nails and watch. There's always aflickerin the room, a blue flicker of TV waves. It looks like a discotheque from the dark alley outside. I'm a virgin. I want to be honest with you, Juan. I almost wrote Jan. In the evenings if I feel like it I surf. Sometimes I lurk, but mainly I'm a flirting, laughing Rita-Hayworth-as-Gilda prick-teasing goddess. I rush and whirl through the chat rooms. One night last week I got 713 personal messages in one session. I was having eight different conversations in five rooms, at once. That's not all. I fuck at 33 baud. Netsex, cybercunt, vyebwhore. All of me. I'm Renee, the red-haired, sassy supermodel. The actress, the cooze who sells perfume in Europe and stops traffic in Hong Kong. The lunches, the agents, the contacts. I must kill and eat your children. Fuck me 'til I scream, sugah. Renee, nice to meet you. I'm thin, 6T', 115, tits and ass. My pussy smells like lavender. I bathe in coconut milk. My skin is soft, very pale, with just the lightest touch offreckles,like little pink shadows from an overhead branch. My long red hair is curly, tousled, wild, all my men like it that way. I like it that way. Just like I've always had it, like when I ran across the hills of Scotland to show my Daddy on the porch to show him a sand dollar and suck a lollipop on his knee while the swing swung. Yeah, my hair, that's the real moneymaker. The real ball-drainer. It reaches down my back, thick, it smells up the room with roses, splashes red onto my white titties. My nipples are light pink splotphes the shape of seashells, all buttery, silky, Botticelli. Firm, perky, 22 forever. Do you like me? Do you love me? Are you hard? Should I tell you the rest of me? My ass, white and tight as a soft, suede leather drum. I'm Renee. Hips wide, Andie McDowell hips. I'm purring. I'm Renee. Just for you. I'm breathing, hard. All of me. My chest is heaving. I'm on fire. For you, baby, just for you. Legs, firm, soft, creamy, a birthmark on the inside of my thigh, my left thigh, just for you. My soft red pussy hairs shaven in a triangle, waiting for your touch. A tattoo, a vermilion butterfly with heart-shaped wings, on my right shoulder blade, it flies out sometimes from its red forest, makes me giggle like a little girl. I'm 198

Central Meridian Renee. Oh. Oh. I'm what they want, what they all want. I'm what you want. Ym what every white bay off the Lake wants. I'm everything. I'm American pie. I'm red-haired andfreckledand naked and open and dripping and waiting, waiting, waiting for you, only for you. Oh, I'm perfect and frozen and exactly what you need. Men look at me and melt. I'm Renee. Fuck me, America. Oh, fuck me with all your dicks in all your 50 states, squirt it all into me, every last drop. Get it out of your system. I can take it. I can take it all I can I can I can No. I want to be honest with you, Juan. My name is Carla. I have fingers shaped like yams, like wrinkled black cucumbers. I'm not Ren₏e. My cunt is foul and empty, a black tangle. I want to be honest with you, Juan. My armchair stinksfromyears of sitting on it, farting, pissing on it. The whole apartment, it reeks of me. When I don't work I do nothing. Nothing. I let myself rot. Month after month, nothing changes except the smell. It gets worse. Oh God Juan I hate myself I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate Today I went to the library. Juan, I went back to school. I read up some on Palach's last days. I wanted to find out all I could about him, about you. You probably know he was lucid for a good deal of the time, those three days in the hospital. It's the physical details I keep thinking of, those endless tiny details, like a painting. A black painting of charred, screamingflesh.Doctors consider burn cases hopeless when half the victim's body has been exposed tofire.You, exactly like Palach, had burns on over 85% of your body. Bravo. The details. So perversely, deliciously, mesmerizingly grisly. The whole body swells up in thefirstfew hours, like afrankenfurterover aflame—orlike my thumb, I guess, when afirecrackerblew up in my hands when I was a little girl. First my thumb was the color of vanilla ice cream, all sweaty and shiny, then it turned gray, then purple. With third-degree bum victims the blistered skin, all dehydrated and seared, soon sloughs off to reveal live, tender, damaged tissue, sizzling beneath. The victim goes into "burn shock": normal bloodflowis divertedfromthe brain, heart, and other vital organs to the skin, in a desperate effort to replenish thefluid-starvedlayers. There can be lots of inner damage too. When clothes drenched in gasoline are set aflame, the vapors they produce get inhaled and destroy theriarynx and pharynx. The vocal cords and respiratory organs are completely burned, decimated, razed. Fire in your throat, your lungs, lighting up, violating the deepest recesses ofyour body. I can hardly imagine it. The pain of course, is unimaginable. Meanwhile, the destruction of the outer organism plays on in its own hell199


Berkeley Fiction Review Charlie Chaplin's or Clint's or Basta Pasta or Spuds or Enchilada Heaven or Tannebaum's or Grease Monkey or Blake's or Chik Fil'a or Gatti's or Terminal Cancer or I sit and watch TV and eat some more. Working as a temp gives me lots x>f time off. I only work if I feel like it. I try to save up enough money so I don't have to work for months. Just stay home. Order out. My kitchen floor; is covered with old newspaper. Sometimes I pee on myself. All the windows are sealed with caulk, curtained. I hear the neighbors, their dog dragging himself along my ceiling like a worm. I watch TV, a little 20 incher, color, Sylvania, that gets great reception. I don't care about cable or HDTV. There's always something on. I smoke and eat and fart and belch and bite my nails and watch. There's always aflickerin the room, a blue flicker of TV waves. It looks like a discotheque from the dark alley outside. I'm a virgin. I want to be honest with you, Juan. I almost wrote Jan. In the evenings if I feel like it I surf. Sometimes I lurk, but mainly I'm a flirting, laughing Rita-Hayworth-as-Gilda prick-teasing goddess. I rush and whirl through the chat rooms. One night last week I got 713 personal messages in one session. I was having eight different conversations in five rooms, at once. That's not all. I fuck at 33 baud. Netsex, cybercunt, vyebwhore. All of me. I'm Renee, the red-haired, sassy supermodel. The actress, the cooze who sells perfume in Europe and stops traffic in Hong Kong. The lunches, the agents, the contacts. I must kill and eat your children. Fuck me 'til I scream, sugah. Renee, nice to meet you. I'm thin, 6T', 115, tits and ass. My pussy smells like lavender. I bathe in coconut milk. My skin is soft, very pale, with just the lightest touch offreckles,like little pink shadows from an overhead branch. My long red hair is curly, tousled, wild, all my men like it that way. I like it that way. Just like I've always had it, like when I ran across the hills of Scotland to show my Daddy on the porch to show him a sand dollar and suck a lollipop on his knee while the swing swung. Yeah, my hair, that's the real moneymaker. The real ball-drainer. It reaches down my back, thick, it smells up the room with roses, splashes red onto my white titties. My nipples are light pink splotphes the shape of seashells, all buttery, silky, Botticelli. Firm, perky, 22 forever. Do you like me? Do you love me? Are you hard? Should I tell you the rest of me? My ass, white and tight as a soft, suede leather drum. I'm Renee. Hips wide, Andie McDowell hips. I'm purring. I'm Renee. Just for you. I'm breathing, hard. All of me. My chest is heaving. I'm on fire. For you, baby, just for you. Legs, firm, soft, creamy, a birthmark on the inside of my thigh, my left thigh, just for you. My soft red pussy hairs shaven in a triangle, waiting for your touch. A tattoo, a vermilion butterfly with heart-shaped wings, on my right shoulder blade, it flies out sometimes from its red forest, makes me giggle like a little girl. I'm 198

Central Meridian Renee. Oh. Oh. I'm what they want, what they all want. I'm what you want. Ym what every white bay off the Lake wants. I'm everything. I'm American pie. I'm red-haired andfreckledand naked and open and dripping and waiting, waiting, waiting for you, only for you. Oh, I'm perfect and frozen and exactly what you need. Men look at me and melt. I'm Renee. Fuck me, America. Oh, fuck me with all your dicks in all your 50 states, squirt it all into me, every last drop. Get it out of your system. I can take it. I can take it all I can I can I can No. I want to be honest with you, Juan. My name is Carla. I have fingers shaped like yams, like wrinkled black cucumbers. I'm not Ren₏e. My cunt is foul and empty, a black tangle. I want to be honest with you, Juan. My armchair stinksfromyears of sitting on it, farting, pissing on it. The whole apartment, it reeks of me. When I don't work I do nothing. Nothing. I let myself rot. Month after month, nothing changes except the smell. It gets worse. Oh God Juan I hate myself I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate I hate Today I went to the library. Juan, I went back to school. I read up some on Palach's last days. I wanted to find out all I could about him, about you. You probably know he was lucid for a good deal of the time, those three days in the hospital. It's the physical details I keep thinking of, those endless tiny details, like a painting. A black painting of charred, screamingflesh.Doctors consider burn cases hopeless when half the victim's body has been exposed tofire.You, exactly like Palach, had burns on over 85% of your body. Bravo. The details. So perversely, deliciously, mesmerizingly grisly. The whole body swells up in thefirstfew hours, like afrankenfurterover aflame—orlike my thumb, I guess, when afirecrackerblew up in my hands when I was a little girl. First my thumb was the color of vanilla ice cream, all sweaty and shiny, then it turned gray, then purple. With third-degree bum victims the blistered skin, all dehydrated and seared, soon sloughs off to reveal live, tender, damaged tissue, sizzling beneath. The victim goes into "burn shock": normal bloodflowis divertedfromthe brain, heart, and other vital organs to the skin, in a desperate effort to replenish thefluid-starvedlayers. There can be lots of inner damage too. When clothes drenched in gasoline are set aflame, the vapors they produce get inhaled and destroy theriarynx and pharynx. The vocal cords and respiratory organs are completely burned, decimated, razed. Fire in your throat, your lungs, lighting up, violating the deepest recesses ofyour body. I can hardly imagine it. The pain of course, is unimaginable. Meanwhile, the destruction of the outer organism plays on in its own hell199


Berkeley Fiction Review ish symphony. The metabolic system, thrown into total confusion, can't cope with the new state of the body and breaks down like an overheated engine. The victim starts to produce poisonous substances, foul yellowblack liquids and white pus, as the body reaches a state called "alternation," accompanied by more severe shock. It's almost like it stops trying to heal itself, and instead seeks to hasten its own destruction, to end the horrible agony. One big exposed wound, itfranticallyretreatsfromlife. As for what happens mentally, we can only speculate. The metabolic changes and rerouted blood flow seem to induce a form of madness, an altered consciousness, a hallucinogenic state. Personality itself is burned away. The patient, if he's outwardly aware, grows extremely sensitive to stimuli, like noise, light, air. They become unbearable to him. Once again a newborn, he is assaulted by a million incomprehensible sensations. I didn't hear your dying words, Juan, but I know what they are, or what they should have been. Doctors treating Palachfirstheard him say, "I am not a suicide!" and later on he asked for tea. The boy amazed everybody with his bravery, his honesty. Here was a 20-year-old kid, burned beyond recognition, and he never once complained about the pain. He was not drugged so heavily that he lost consciousness, awareness, but by the same token the pain was greater. His mood wavered back and forth those 72 hoursfroma "feeling of fulfillment" to anxious wondering about the public's response to his act andfinally,to depression when he found out the people did not follow his lead and the government did not cave in to his demands. The Saturday morning after the deed he had the nurse hold the newspapers up to his eyes, which were reduced to tiny chinks peeping out of swollen skin, to see the evidence for himself. There, in that hospital ward filling up with flowers, in a country jarred into shock and grief—but not action—Jan Palach's faith was shaken. "I believe that our nation is no longer in need of light," he said. That evening his condition deteriorated rapidly. The, doctors tried various token treatments, and he held on through the next morning. The more reliable of the two accounts of his final words describes his expressing the wish that others should not emulate his deed. By then he could hardly speak; he whispered each word slowly, every syllable a sharp, stabbing pain: "My act has fulfilled its purpose. . .but no one else should do it or repeat it.. .today our problems are great and seem insurmountable.. .let this serve as the reason to maintain the struggle." His last words—and yours—were that we would all, somewhere, see each other again. Jan Palach died at half-past three on Sunday, January 19,1969. That's why I write this. That's why I'm typing out this letter to a dead, mad actor. I want to be honest with you, Juan. You gave me your truth, 200

Central Meridian through your lies, and I want to give you mine. I needed to learn more gbout you, I had tor and I didn't want to wait for the goddamn television movie. I called your family in Texas, I wanted to ask them about you, about everything, but they hung up. They must be sick of phone calls, sick of everything. You were cremated, Juan, your ashes scattered I don't know where. Will we, somewhere, see each other again, I wonder. That, too, is why I write this. That gives me the strength, Juan. TTie strength to give you the truth. You do want the truth, don't you? Juan, I'm not Carla. Juan, my real name is Carl. You saw me. You son of a bitch. Did you know it? Did you feel it? You must have, when you said, "We must help this man, and the countless masses just like him. We must raise them. Only then will we truly be free." You did mean that, didn't you, Juan? Even as you gagged on my reek and held back your sick at my bloated body, you never turned away, and you meant every word. Man, you meant all that shit, always. I understand that now. You wanted to resurrect me, to raise us. You wanted to save us all. But you never did think of asking us if we wanted to be saved, did you, you fuck? No, you didn't, and I should know, because I controlled you, always. You and Palach, all you sick fucks, you don't know shit. My name is Carl, Juan. Nice to meet you. I work, late nights. A prison. I eat and fart at a desk until dawn, then I come home and sleep and eat and fart at home. My parents are dead. I jerk off with the TV and the Web fuckers. There's pieces of me all over the apartment, turds. I like to keep the heater on, sweaty hot. The screen where these words dance and copulate is smeared, greasy with all kindsa shit. On the keyboard chunky skin flakes, dandruff, snotballs, pizza crumbs, stick out between keys rubbed blank and raw. I type pretty fast. The canary that lies dead in its cage with the grubs, I killed it myself, with my lighter. Hated the noise. The neighbors bitch about the smells, but I hear them fuck and beat each other all the time. Me, I'm quiet. Except my breathing. I breathe loud. The loud rasp of a fat man. It fills the apartment. I fill it. My foul and malodorous spirit. When I met with Hollis "Kunta Kinte" Mason, he told me I should shower once in while. I told him, "Suck my dick, nigger." That poor Hollis. I played with that boy's mind. Thefirsttime I met him, when he was trying to warn "Jan's" "womanfriend"fromthe notebook about "Jan's" "strange behavior," I told him I was afriendof yours, of both of you, and provided enough detailsfromyour writings to win his trust. But this time, today, he was suspicious, he didn't know what to think. Poor, dumb porch monkey. He won't ever know shit, either. You're all cutfromthe same cloth. He just cringed and his eyes bounced back and forth as he gave me the packet with all your letters and old notebook pages and printouts from our chat 201


Berkeley Fiction Review ish symphony. The metabolic system, thrown into total confusion, can't cope with the new state of the body and breaks down like an overheated engine. The victim starts to produce poisonous substances, foul yellowblack liquids and white pus, as the body reaches a state called "alternation," accompanied by more severe shock. It's almost like it stops trying to heal itself, and instead seeks to hasten its own destruction, to end the horrible agony. One big exposed wound, itfranticallyretreatsfromlife. As for what happens mentally, we can only speculate. The metabolic changes and rerouted blood flow seem to induce a form of madness, an altered consciousness, a hallucinogenic state. Personality itself is burned away. The patient, if he's outwardly aware, grows extremely sensitive to stimuli, like noise, light, air. They become unbearable to him. Once again a newborn, he is assaulted by a million incomprehensible sensations. I didn't hear your dying words, Juan, but I know what they are, or what they should have been. Doctors treating Palachfirstheard him say, "I am not a suicide!" and later on he asked for tea. The boy amazed everybody with his bravery, his honesty. Here was a 20-year-old kid, burned beyond recognition, and he never once complained about the pain. He was not drugged so heavily that he lost consciousness, awareness, but by the same token the pain was greater. His mood wavered back and forth those 72 hoursfroma "feeling of fulfillment" to anxious wondering about the public's response to his act andfinally,to depression when he found out the people did not follow his lead and the government did not cave in to his demands. The Saturday morning after the deed he had the nurse hold the newspapers up to his eyes, which were reduced to tiny chinks peeping out of swollen skin, to see the evidence for himself. There, in that hospital ward filling up with flowers, in a country jarred into shock and grief—but not action—Jan Palach's faith was shaken. "I believe that our nation is no longer in need of light," he said. That evening his condition deteriorated rapidly. The, doctors tried various token treatments, and he held on through the next morning. The more reliable of the two accounts of his final words describes his expressing the wish that others should not emulate his deed. By then he could hardly speak; he whispered each word slowly, every syllable a sharp, stabbing pain: "My act has fulfilled its purpose. . .but no one else should do it or repeat it.. .today our problems are great and seem insurmountable.. .let this serve as the reason to maintain the struggle." His last words—and yours—were that we would all, somewhere, see each other again. Jan Palach died at half-past three on Sunday, January 19,1969. That's why I write this. That's why I'm typing out this letter to a dead, mad actor. I want to be honest with you, Juan. You gave me your truth, 200

Central Meridian through your lies, and I want to give you mine. I needed to learn more gbout you, I had tor and I didn't want to wait for the goddamn television movie. I called your family in Texas, I wanted to ask them about you, about everything, but they hung up. They must be sick of phone calls, sick of everything. You were cremated, Juan, your ashes scattered I don't know where. Will we, somewhere, see each other again, I wonder. That, too, is why I write this. That gives me the strength, Juan. TTie strength to give you the truth. You do want the truth, don't you? Juan, I'm not Carla. Juan, my real name is Carl. You saw me. You son of a bitch. Did you know it? Did you feel it? You must have, when you said, "We must help this man, and the countless masses just like him. We must raise them. Only then will we truly be free." You did mean that, didn't you, Juan? Even as you gagged on my reek and held back your sick at my bloated body, you never turned away, and you meant every word. Man, you meant all that shit, always. I understand that now. You wanted to resurrect me, to raise us. You wanted to save us all. But you never did think of asking us if we wanted to be saved, did you, you fuck? No, you didn't, and I should know, because I controlled you, always. You and Palach, all you sick fucks, you don't know shit. My name is Carl, Juan. Nice to meet you. I work, late nights. A prison. I eat and fart at a desk until dawn, then I come home and sleep and eat and fart at home. My parents are dead. I jerk off with the TV and the Web fuckers. There's pieces of me all over the apartment, turds. I like to keep the heater on, sweaty hot. The screen where these words dance and copulate is smeared, greasy with all kindsa shit. On the keyboard chunky skin flakes, dandruff, snotballs, pizza crumbs, stick out between keys rubbed blank and raw. I type pretty fast. The canary that lies dead in its cage with the grubs, I killed it myself, with my lighter. Hated the noise. The neighbors bitch about the smells, but I hear them fuck and beat each other all the time. Me, I'm quiet. Except my breathing. I breathe loud. The loud rasp of a fat man. It fills the apartment. I fill it. My foul and malodorous spirit. When I met with Hollis "Kunta Kinte" Mason, he told me I should shower once in while. I told him, "Suck my dick, nigger." That poor Hollis. I played with that boy's mind. Thefirsttime I met him, when he was trying to warn "Jan's" "womanfriend"fromthe notebook about "Jan's" "strange behavior," I told him I was afriendof yours, of both of you, and provided enough detailsfromyour writings to win his trust. But this time, today, he was suspicious, he didn't know what to think. Poor, dumb porch monkey. He won't ever know shit, either. You're all cutfromthe same cloth. He just cringed and his eyes bounced back and forth as he gave me the packet with all your letters and old notebook pages and printouts from our chat 201


Berkeley Fiction Review sessions, all this crap that you kept so carefully in that envelope, in that pathetic apartment filled with clippings and posters of Jan Palach and the book on Tomas Masaryk by Milan Machovec left open on the table, just as Palach left it when he stepped out tofry.That little packet of mementos and keepsakes. You wanted me, you wanted RenÂŁe, you wanted Carla, to have it. We thank you. You were real, Juan. Jan. You were real. So I write this letter, just for you, so I can print it out and put it together with the other papers and clippings and crap and tie it all up together with a rubber band and then put it in the envelope, so I can burn it. So I can set this last little piece of you onfiretoo, and watch the ashes fall slowly into my trash can, and disappear. Ashes to ashes. That's what I wanted to tell you. You deserve that. I should know. And one more thing. I want to be honest with you, Juan. I'm not Carl. I'm not this is not this wasn't this never was non sono Ne jestem nejsem Ich bin kein tl hlngan Qo'jIH non sum je ne suis pas no soy I'm not Well, never mind what I'm not. It's over. Just never you mind.

The author wishes to thank Karin Larsent Kathrine Kuenzli, Amir Bhanjabe, Tiziana Bertolini, Anna Xiao Dong Sun, Mary Knighton, Martina Moravcova, Michelle Viise and Sabine Stoll for their translations. 202


Berkeley Fiction Review sessions, all this crap that you kept so carefully in that envelope, in that pathetic apartment filled with clippings and posters of Jan Palach and the book on Tomas Masaryk by Milan Machovec left open on the table, just as Palach left it when he stepped out tofry.That little packet of mementos and keepsakes. You wanted me, you wanted RenÂŁe, you wanted Carla, to have it. We thank you. You were real, Juan. Jan. You were real. So I write this letter, just for you, so I can print it out and put it together with the other papers and clippings and crap and tie it all up together with a rubber band and then put it in the envelope, so I can burn it. So I can set this last little piece of you onfiretoo, and watch the ashes fall slowly into my trash can, and disappear. Ashes to ashes. That's what I wanted to tell you. You deserve that. I should know. And one more thing. I want to be honest with you, Juan. I'm not Carl. I'm not this is not this wasn't this never was non sono Ne jestem nejsem Ich bin kein tl hlngan Qo'jIH non sum je ne suis pas no soy I'm not Well, never mind what I'm not. It's over. Just never you mind.

The author wishes to thank Karin Larsent Kathrine Kuenzli, Amir Bhanjabe, Tiziana Bertolini, Anna Xiao Dong Sun, Mary Knighton, Martina Moravcova, Michelle Viise and Sabine Stoll for their translations. 202


C o n t r i b u t o r ' s

N o t e s

Jose Alaniz is a doctoral candidate in Comparative Literature at U.C. Berkeley. He finds cultural, linguistic and genre distinctions to be no more real than Santa Claus, La Llorrona or Baba Yaga. Vicky Anderson teaches writing at Loyola University of Chicago and has had residencies at Ragsdale and VCCA Her stories and poems have appeared in Poet & Critic, River City, Westbranch, Cimarron Review, and American Short Fiction. Elizabeth Bell is a San Francisco translator of French and Spanish whose work has appeared in Two Lines, Fiction, Kenyon Review and Light From a Nearby Window: Contemporary Mexican Poetry (City Lights), among other publications. She also translated from the French Max Cabanes' award-winning graphic novel, Heartthrobs (Catalan Communications). Cassandra Gainer is a recent graduate of the University of Florida and now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is currently at work on her first collection of short stories. Bridget Hoida is a student at U.C. Berkeley, currently working on a novel. Craig Lauer received the 1996 Henfield-Transatlantic Review Award for fiction and has stories upcoming or recently appearing in the Iowa Review, Farmers Market, and the Concho River Review. He has an MFA form Sarah Lawrence College and lives with his wife in New York City. Mary McDermott is a full-time writer living in northern California. She has a Master's degree in Family Therapy, a field that has provided unique training for writing fiction. Her work has appeared in Emrys Journal, Arachne, The Seattle Review, and The Dan River Anthology. Alvaro Mutis was born in Colombia, spent his early childhood in Brussels, and has lived in Mexico since 1966. He declares a deep affinity for Spain and simultaneously proclaims the Colombian cordillera the "substance of my dreams, nostalgias, terrors and joys." His poetry and fiction have won numerous awards, including France's Prix Me*dicis, Mexico's 204

Premio Villaurrutia, the Instituto Latino Americano prize from Italy and, this year, the Principe de Asturias de las Letras award from Spain. His novellas, which have been compared to the work of Joseph Conrad, are available in the United States as the Adventures ofMaqroII (Harper Perennial). Kolin J.M. Ohi was educated at Cornell University and U.C. Davis. His fiction has appeared in Christopher Street and Fourteen Hills: The SFSU Review, and this summer, it will be included in The Best Gay American Fiction, Volume Two. He lives in San Francisco, where he is working on a novel. Jimmy J. Pack Jr. graduated from Central Connecticut State University in May with a degree in Creative Writing/English. "I never would have started to write if J.D. Salinger or Raymond Carver hadn't put pen to paper." He hopes to pursue a Master's degree but will spend the next few years writing. "Special thanks to writer Tom Hazuka and poet Brendan Galvin." Trevor Perrin is an EECS student at U.C. Berkeley. More about him and his writing can be found at http://parker.eecs.berkeley.edu/~trevor Daniel Scott was a finalist for the 1996 Southern Prize and will be featured in the upcoming Southern Anthology. His work has also appeared in Confrontation, StoryQuarterly, Clockwatch Review and Art News. He lives in New York City. Michael Stockham received his MA in Creative Writing from Texas A&M University. He won the 1995 Frank Waters Southwest Writing Award and was a semi-finalist in the 1995 William Faulkner Competition in Fietion. His fiction has appeared in Outerbridges, Short Story Review and is forthcoming in Collages and Bricolages and Art Times. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Linda Walters-Page currently lives in Honolulu with husband and cat. Her short-short fiction has been published in Hawai'i Review. Ellery Washington C. spends most of his time in his room, with his oboe and his Apple. Before this, he studied Liberal Arts at Pepperdine University, Architecture at the University of New Mexico, and has worked in the fields of architecture, advertising, and documentary film. Currently, his room is in Southern California. 205


C o n t r i b u t o r ' s

N o t e s

Jose Alaniz is a doctoral candidate in Comparative Literature at U.C. Berkeley. He finds cultural, linguistic and genre distinctions to be no more real than Santa Claus, La Llorrona or Baba Yaga. Vicky Anderson teaches writing at Loyola University of Chicago and has had residencies at Ragsdale and VCCA Her stories and poems have appeared in Poet & Critic, River City, Westbranch, Cimarron Review, and American Short Fiction. Elizabeth Bell is a San Francisco translator of French and Spanish whose work has appeared in Two Lines, Fiction, Kenyon Review and Light From a Nearby Window: Contemporary Mexican Poetry (City Lights), among other publications. She also translated from the French Max Cabanes' award-winning graphic novel, Heartthrobs (Catalan Communications). Cassandra Gainer is a recent graduate of the University of Florida and now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is currently at work on her first collection of short stories. Bridget Hoida is a student at U.C. Berkeley, currently working on a novel. Craig Lauer received the 1996 Henfield-Transatlantic Review Award for fiction and has stories upcoming or recently appearing in the Iowa Review, Farmers Market, and the Concho River Review. He has an MFA form Sarah Lawrence College and lives with his wife in New York City. Mary McDermott is a full-time writer living in northern California. She has a Master's degree in Family Therapy, a field that has provided unique training for writing fiction. Her work has appeared in Emrys Journal, Arachne, The Seattle Review, and The Dan River Anthology. Alvaro Mutis was born in Colombia, spent his early childhood in Brussels, and has lived in Mexico since 1966. He declares a deep affinity for Spain and simultaneously proclaims the Colombian cordillera the "substance of my dreams, nostalgias, terrors and joys." His poetry and fiction have won numerous awards, including France's Prix Me*dicis, Mexico's 204

Premio Villaurrutia, the Instituto Latino Americano prize from Italy and, this year, the Principe de Asturias de las Letras award from Spain. His novellas, which have been compared to the work of Joseph Conrad, are available in the United States as the Adventures ofMaqroII (Harper Perennial). Kolin J.M. Ohi was educated at Cornell University and U.C. Davis. His fiction has appeared in Christopher Street and Fourteen Hills: The SFSU Review, and this summer, it will be included in The Best Gay American Fiction, Volume Two. He lives in San Francisco, where he is working on a novel. Jimmy J. Pack Jr. graduated from Central Connecticut State University in May with a degree in Creative Writing/English. "I never would have started to write if J.D. Salinger or Raymond Carver hadn't put pen to paper." He hopes to pursue a Master's degree but will spend the next few years writing. "Special thanks to writer Tom Hazuka and poet Brendan Galvin." Trevor Perrin is an EECS student at U.C. Berkeley. More about him and his writing can be found at http://parker.eecs.berkeley.edu/~trevor Daniel Scott was a finalist for the 1996 Southern Prize and will be featured in the upcoming Southern Anthology. His work has also appeared in Confrontation, StoryQuarterly, Clockwatch Review and Art News. He lives in New York City. Michael Stockham received his MA in Creative Writing from Texas A&M University. He won the 1995 Frank Waters Southwest Writing Award and was a semi-finalist in the 1995 William Faulkner Competition in Fietion. His fiction has appeared in Outerbridges, Short Story Review and is forthcoming in Collages and Bricolages and Art Times. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Linda Walters-Page currently lives in Honolulu with husband and cat. Her short-short fiction has been published in Hawai'i Review. Ellery Washington C. spends most of his time in his room, with his oboe and his Apple. Before this, he studied Liberal Arts at Pepperdine University, Architecture at the University of New Mexico, and has worked in the fields of architecture, advertising, and documentary film. Currently, his room is in Southern California. 205


A r t i s t ' s

N o t e s

Charles Ellik was born in Long Beach, California. He received a B.A in Studio Art from Cal State Long Beach. His experience in writing came from coffeehouses and living rooms of generous poets across the country. A poet as well as an artist, his dream was to combine visual art with literary art for a new synthesis, and found it already under his nose-in comics. He currently lives in Oakland. This is his second featured appearance in the Berkeley Fiction Review.

Merav Tzur was born in Israel. She studied art at Isomata School for Art in Idyll wild, California, as well as the Mimad and Kalisher 5 Schools for the Arts in Tel Aviv. She has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1988, where she continues her career as an artist.

206


A r t i s t ' s

N o t e s

Charles Ellik was born in Long Beach, California. He received a B.A in Studio Art from Cal State Long Beach. His experience in writing came from coffeehouses and living rooms of generous poets across the country. A poet as well as an artist, his dream was to combine visual art with literary art for a new synthesis, and found it already under his nose-in comics. He currently lives in Oakland. This is his second featured appearance in the Berkeley Fiction Review.

Merav Tzur was born in Israel. She studied art at Isomata School for Art in Idyll wild, California, as well as the Mimad and Kalisher 5 Schools for the Arts in Tel Aviv. She has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1988, where she continues her career as an artist.

206


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*•» Unsolicited manuscripts must arrive by September 15 to be considered for the winter literary Awards issue (acceptances in December) and February 15tobe considered for the summer issue (acceptances in May). Manuscripts arriving after those dates will be held for the next consideration. **>

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I s s u e

• • 5 e n t r y l e e + $ 3 for each additional e n t r y • M a k e c h e e k o r money o r d e r p a y a b l e t o BFR Sadden Fix •1000 words or less • T y p e d , double-spaced • I n c l u d e a brief cover letter & SASE for a list of t h e w i n n e r s •Submissions will not be r e t u r n e d A m e r i c a n at E n d of the

Send submissions to:

the Millennium

-featuring Marvin Bell Robert Bly Mark Doty Stephen Dunn Lynn Emanuel Alice Fulton Albert Goldbarth Paul Hoover Joy Harjo

Poetry

-

Yusef Komunyakaa Maxine Kumin Ann Lauterbach William Matthews Heather McHugh David Mura Carol Muske Naomi Shihab Nye Mary Oliver

Molly Peacock Robert Pinsky Stanley Plumly Gary Soto Elizabeth Spires David St. John James Tate Chase Twichell Charles Wright

Send check or money ordei tor $10 .to.: Green Mountains Review, Johnson State Co Johnson, V T 05656

Sudden Fiction Contest B e r k e l e y Fiction R e v i e w c / o ASUC P u b l i c a t i o n s L i h r a r y - 2 0 1 H e l l e r ^ M L K U n i v e r s i t y of C a l i f o r n i a B e r k e l e y , CA 9 4 7 2 0 - 4 5 0 0

D e a d l i n e is F e b r u a r y 6 , 1 9 9 8 W i n n e r s will be notified b y M a r c h 3 0 , 1 9 9 8

Berkeley Fiction Review is sponsored by the Associated Students ofthe University ofC http://WWW.OCF. Berkeley.EDVI-bfrl


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B e r k e l e y Fiction Review' s Third Annual

S u d d e n

$ 2 0 0

F i c t i o n

C o n t e s t

P r i z e for First P l a e e

W i n n e r

1 0 t h First a n d Second P l a c e W i n n e r s will b e published in B e r k e l ey Fiction R e v i e w 18

A n n i v e r s a r y D o u b l e

Guidelines:

I s s u e

• • 5 e n t r y l e e + $ 3 for each additional e n t r y • M a k e c h e e k o r money o r d e r p a y a b l e t o BFR Sadden Fix •1000 words or less • T y p e d , double-spaced • I n c l u d e a brief cover letter & SASE for a list of t h e w i n n e r s •Submissions will not be r e t u r n e d A m e r i c a n at E n d of the

Send submissions to:

the Millennium

-featuring Marvin Bell Robert Bly Mark Doty Stephen Dunn Lynn Emanuel Alice Fulton Albert Goldbarth Paul Hoover Joy Harjo

Poetry

-

Yusef Komunyakaa Maxine Kumin Ann Lauterbach William Matthews Heather McHugh David Mura Carol Muske Naomi Shihab Nye Mary Oliver

Molly Peacock Robert Pinsky Stanley Plumly Gary Soto Elizabeth Spires David St. John James Tate Chase Twichell Charles Wright

Send check or money ordei tor $10 .to.: Green Mountains Review, Johnson State Co Johnson, V T 05656

Sudden Fiction Contest B e r k e l e y Fiction R e v i e w c / o ASUC P u b l i c a t i o n s L i h r a r y - 2 0 1 H e l l e r ^ M L K U n i v e r s i t y of C a l i f o r n i a B e r k e l e y , CA 9 4 7 2 0 - 4 5 0 0

D e a d l i n e is F e b r u a r y 6 , 1 9 9 8 W i n n e r s will be notified b y M a r c h 3 0 , 1 9 9 8

Berkeley Fiction Review is sponsored by the Associated Students ofthe University ofC http://WWW.OCF. Berkeley.EDVI-bfrl


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Fiction by: Jose Alaniz Vicky Anderso n * Cassandra Gainer Bridget Hoida Craig Lauer

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Mary McDermotl Kolin J.M. Ohi Jimmy J. Pack Jr. Daniel Scott Michael Stockham Linda Walters-Page Bllery Washington C Special feature: An early work by international award-winning Colombian writer Alvaro Mutis, translated by Elizabeth Bell. Cover art by: Merav Tzur Illustrations by: