This is called “Lydia Davis Writes So Small.” Makes perfect sense.
because she finds it hard to eat and talk at the same time.
This is called “Lydia Davis Writes So Small.” Makes perfect sense.
because she finds it hard to eat and talk at the same time.
The name of this story is “Tense.” I am was.
We live in the house near campus that houses English majors. In the woods behind our house lives the ghost. He has a beard and he will say, I am lost and thirsty.
That is all he says.
Sometimes he will glow blue, but all we can think of is tense.
I was lost and thirsty, someone says.
But he is present, someone notes, which means he currently is lost and thirsty.
He is only current in that he is something that was started in the past and is now finished in the present as something that is finished can also be in some ways present, someone chimes. So: He has thirsted and gotten lost.
Now you are confusing things, the other says.
Now you are just emphasizing any words, says the other.
Shush up, says someone by the window. It is certain that he has happened in the past and is continuing into the present, perhaps even into the future so thus: he has been lost and thirsty.
Or if we are to believe in our hearts that he will continue into the future, and why not?, then perhaps: He will be lost and thirsty.
This is called “Who Kills Sue.” C = ABAB?
The girl at my work says she is going to kill me. She also says Sue is going to kill her. Who kills Sue is the big mystery. If Sue kills the girl and the girl kills me, I am separated by two degrees of murder from the person who kills Sue. Or is it three degrees? If there are three murders that happen, me being the last, or is it first—now I am becoming confused. If the girl kills me after she is killed by Sue but before Sue is herself killed, then this makes no sense. The answer to that equation is: no, I am not killed. Ha! Three murders is probably of no consequence to the place we work. Being killed does not automatically make you fired, or should I say, unemployed. There are two dead people who work where I work. The one was killed by Barbara, but the other one was killed by Beth. I am not sure how to factor this into understanding who kills Sue. If both Beth and Barbara each killed one. And I know Sue can kill the girl. They all seem to be on equal playing fields. It is a conundrum, I think is the word. It is like an unsolvable math problem. Like: if three trains are traveling at the same speed to the same strange Midwestern city of your choice, when will they crash into each other and the families of the conductors cry forever? I do not know the answer. Then again, I was never good at math.
This is “Strike Zone.” The Greatest Baseball Story Ever Written.
Never really fuckin liked Walker. Never. Fuck that forty home run showboat. Fuckin Walker. Takin his fuckin billion strikeouts up to New York for all that fuckin money last winter. Fuck. Prancin around in his fuckin Mets uniform. Fuckin weird. Fuckin joke. I mean, at the time it was like, Fuck, what are we gonna do now, our best guy is leaving and shit. But then got to thinkin, started to think long and hard about it, and finally it was more: Good riddance, sayonara, don’t let the fuckin door hit you in the dick on the way out, prick. Fuckin strikeout machine, unclutch sucking donkey balls. Schedule comes out and first thing we look for is the first game back. Prank called the hotel room with weird voices. Ordered shitload of pizzas to be delivered. Fuckin hilarious. Ordered a gentleman escort the one night. More fuckin hilarious. Slipped the waiter at the restaurant a fifty to hack into his drink. Fucker didn’t even know. The fuck does he care? With his fuckin million dollar dinners. Fuckin dime a dozen. We got plenty of hitters on our team that can fuckin slug a home run. The fuck do we need fuckin Walker for? Don’t fuckin need him for nothing. Got the number to his house. Don’t ask how. Just fuckin did. Called up his wife and started sayin the fuckin craziest shit to her on the phone. Like: You’re gonna fuckin die tonight if your husband even thinks about showing up at the ballpark, bitch. Gonna fuckin knock your fuckin head off, you fuckin slut. Gonna make your fuckin billion dollar strikeout husband watch. Gonna take a fucking bat to the children. She’s all crying and fuckin dramatic on the other end. Got her so scared she fuckin called the cops. Fuckin big deal. Fuckin know we mean business. Other day I see my little guy, Ryan, wearing an old Walker jersey. Say: Uh-uh, little man, you know why. And he fuckin looks at me all sad and not-understanding, holding his little mitt, but he’s got to learn. He’s got to. Someday he will. It all fuckin starts at home. When you fuckin play for this team, you fuckin bleed for this team. One way or the other, you fuckin bleed for this team.
The name of this story is “The Peeping Tom’s Frustration.” There should be T-shirt that sez, I’m with James Thurber.
My neighbors thought I was strange for doing what I do. What I do is: I stare into other people’s homes. I take walks at night, under the moon that peeks out from the velvet linen of the night sky and bends like a beautiful woman’s kneecap in the sky, and enjoy the dioramic delights of my neighbors’ inner lives.
It is hard to not enjoy them.
They are so much on display it is hard not to look.
This is often what I say to them when they come yelling and screaming at me. That is, they only yell and scream if they see me. Most do not see me. Or at least used to. I am very good at not being seen. Or at least used to.
It is different now.
Sometimes I think it is this: it is that they are looking out for people watching them. I think it is a strange want within them that they desire me to look in on them doing domestic things in the privacy of their inner sanctums.
What is stranger than my staring at my neighbors is: my neighbors think I am strange when I do not stare into their homes. They will stomp out of their homes and cross the street and stand there in their underwear, imploring me to come out of their neighbor’s bushes. Is there something wrong with us? they ask themselves. Do we not excite you? they ask me.
All I can do is shrug my shoulders.
It is an epidemic of sorts in my neighborhood.
Being a Peeping Tom is very hard.
The Taylors have begun eating their family dinners in the nude with the bright chandelier on. Mrs. Svey seems to constantly be trying on pairs of stockings and garters. Mr. and Mrs. Byrne make sure to open their windows and use their best theatrical voices when they commence their knockdown-dragout fights.
Rarely do I need to hide anymore.
Rarely do I need to even leave the house.
I feel bored at all the un-mystery. I feel powerless, sitting in my chair, peeping out my window.
Mr. Close walks down the street in high heels screaming at his daughter on the phone, asking her why she is such a bitch who will never grow up. Across the street, the Dorsets have moved their bed out onto the front lawn and perform strange and wild sex acts while their dog, Udo, watches from the house.
And this strikes me for some reason. I feel an odd kinship with the faraway, inhuman face in the window across the street. This face of Udo: his soft lonely nose and eyes in the window, watching with interest his masters hump trapezoidally on their bed outside, every now and again expressing his contempt for such displays of bawdy showmanship by barking.
All that in Udo’s face, which could be mine.
Also this: a silent wishing that his humping was just as mysteriously free and mysteriously poetic and mysteriously alive with eyes.
The name of this story is “The Place of Not-Thinking.” In the woods…In the woods…In the woods…In the…
The girl lumbered through the forlorn trails of the forest, alone, with her knapsack that contained within it: two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a bag of Dorito’s, a Twinkie, a bag of regular chips, a Ding-Dong, and three juice boxes.
Going on adventures one must be prepared, she had said to herself while packing these things into the knapsack.
Plus if she met a friend, she’d have extra to share.
Thing was: she had not met a friend.
She once met a couple kids one day who had tricked her into believing they were being attacked by bees, and when she got so scared she dropped her knapsack on the ground and ran into the small creek that trickled through the woods, they stopped and laughed very hard at her and then noticed the snacks that had come loose out of the knapsack and took those too, laughed some more, and then left. She stayed in the wet creek, her shoes soaked, feeling dumb. Had peed herself a little bit too.
That memory was a bad one for the girl. She did not like to think of it.
It was bunched in with the memory of Catherine Stover spreading the rumor around school that she liked to do weird things with her food before she ate it. Weird sexual things. And then next thing she knew, her locker at school was filled with half-peeled bananas with a note that said, They’re good for you.
Even with the bad memory of the fake bee attack people, walking about in the forest here made her feel good. She did not think of those memories. Any memories at all, in fact.
It was a place of forgetting for her.
A place of Not-Thinking.
Which, she felt, suited her.
Cause if she thought, then it was hard to answer the questions she posed in her thoughts.
Like: Why didn’t she get along with other kids?
Like: Why was she a little different?
She was different, but not much different.
In her place of Not-Thinking, she felt that she had beautiful things to say and give. Inside her, if only someone might listen or see, were wonderful things. She was magnificent. And everyone else was magnificent, too.
But every time she left the woods of the forest, the slow creeping thought came within her that perhaps, like her overpacking her knapsack with snacks and treats, her unthinking mind had packed too much good stuff into her head to ever be true or totally good.
And she thought of her overall shape in the world as less wonderful. More so: she was perhaps present in spite of the wonder of the world.
And so she’d trek back home, knapsack empty, her head already filling with the desire to go back to that place where it could gracefully disappear.
This is “Love Songs In The Stone Age.” Teeth scratch feel nice?
Look at these songs painted in this cave very long ago. Squint if you must. The paintings are of men sticks and women sticks close to each other. Sometimes it is difficult to tell which is a man stick and which is a woman stick.
Sometimes they blur together on the cave walls.
Are they coming closer or drifting apart?
It looks as if they are ghost stories.
This is “Injured Deer Revenge Tale.” I am a Supercuts commercial in my dreams.
The deer was not dead.
Just injured is all.
Its leg bent like a paperclip.
The deer did not know what a paperclip was.
The metaphor was lost in the woods.
What it did know in its heart was this: revenge.
The word curved in and out of its natural body like a snake or vine.
Revenge was the building built last summer in the last patch of grassy woods. Its windows lit up like floating lanterns in the night. It was the silver smiled bumper of the car that took the deer’s mother. It was the tiny plastic that hung from necks of birds.
The deer envisioned mutilating the children of its enemy. Anger lumped up in its heart. Also: sadness. It did not want to envision mutilating the children.
It did not want to have to use the antlers.
It limped on through the thick moss of the forest, its heart lost in the quicksilver grief that turns so fluidly to revenge.
Far away a tired man said goodnight to his child, kissed his wife, and turned his eyes black.
The name of this story is “My Sandbox.” I learned nothing in the kindergarten.
Katie, hula hooping in place, was saying I was not being as creative with my sandbox as I probably could be.
I looked at my sandbox.
A blue plastic shovel and a pail sat lonely in the one corner.
In the middle was a nondescript castle made of sand: adorned with no turrets, no spires, no intricate eaves, no moat, no high lookout perch, no flags, nothing. It was just a bucket-shaped sand pile.
My sandbox was blue.
So I whisked it all away. I threw a big blanket over it, shielding it from the onlookers in their striped bathing suits and their critical eyes.
I worked daily beneath the blanket. With nothing but my blue plastic shovel and pail, I worked. Feeling the sand on my hands, wedged in under my fingernails, etc.
I began to not think, but dream.
I stopped periodically for a snack and a juicebox.
Then back to work!
I dreamt my dreams were machines and the little widgets and invisible gadgetry within them ran on a certain kind of longing and desire.
My sandbox grew.
I felt from afar the gentlest fire ache within the machinery of the sandbox.
My heart kept yawning in its heat.
On the unveiling of my new sandbox, I wished more could be done. I still felt like more could be done. Like there was too much space in the sandbox to ever fill up, or conversely, not enough room in the sandbox to contain everything that there was to fill it with. The image of the shifting sandbox hurts my head more than it hurts my heart. Perhaps moving on to other sandboxes was the solution? Leave this sandbox, my sandbox, and move on to the next, build it up again, invent some new work for myself?
I was still young after all.
Even if I were older, say about ten, there’d still be time enough for other sandboxes.
One thing certain of sandboxes: there is too much world to ever fill it up with sandboxes.
So throwing the blanket to the side, I unveiled my sandbox.
There was silence. A lot of looking. Some not looking. But mostly looking.
It’s beautiful, they said. What is it?
This is called “Only Art.” I wrote this in my sleep. That is why there is drool.
As children, our favorite book was called Ludwig’s Hands, about Ludwig the Village Boy and the many ways in which his hand would be chopped off.
Gosh, we’d laugh for hours.
The misadventures of that boy’s hand—hands!
But it was—is?—also sad
Because Ludwig kept losing his hand. And at the end each time there he was—round, pink head resting on the one good hand while he stared off longingly into the red stump where his other hand used to exist.
The book was unique for with each new chapter, little pink-faced Ludwig’s hand would be grown back and the mystery as to how it might be lopped off again would begin anew.
We’d take turns guessing at the miserable end the hand might find itself at.
My favorite lopping was the one where Ludwig gets swept up into a tornado and the pictures show him completely vanished in the dark funnel, except for his hand, which reaches out of the dark funnel as if grasping for help, and below are all sorts of bad ways in which to lop a hand off—axes and and wolves and meat grinders—and you, as the reader, are wondering which one of these he is going to fall on, until the last page, whereupon he gets tossed by the tornado into the propellers of an airplane in the sky, thusly buzzing the hand from his arm, which drops from the sky and falls into the meat grinder, gets ground up, eaten by the wolves, who in turn get chopped up with the axes by big white lumberjacks who, it is intimated, get a nice wolf stew going.
I always thought that was creative the way that all came together.
My sister would say nah to that.
She always said the best part was how at the very end of the book, in the last chapter, you get to see all the versions of Ludwig’s hands together in a house they all live in. All the differently chopped off hands living together like a family or, at the very least, friends who go in on the rent and live together and who sometimes get on each other’s nerves but at the end of it all they are friends and what are you going to do, right?
My sister liked the idea of the hands living together and them all feeling sad they were not with Ludwig.
Because he was feeling sad he was not with them too.
Irony! she’d wail.
It’s like this: all these little weird chopped up hands crying with big cartoonish tears in their eyes over the boy they are no longer attached to. And yet: here they are together, without the boy, but with each other, feeling the same pain and grief, and just because they are feeling it differently, because the size and shape of their wounds do not correspond, does not mean for one second that the feeling of loss that radiates in them is actually any different.
Neither my sister nor I are children anymore, and Ludwig’s Hands is only a piece of art for children to look at and be amused by I know, yet I am very sad that I have lost that book.