wigleaf Spencer Dew all Elvis all Billy Mays all Time to Submit Words

I just ran 15.5 miles. I actually feel pretty good but have a case of the yawns. I sweated like a knife tucked into a bra.

The long run is so essential to the marathon, physically and physiologically. Your body’s glycogen (fuel from your muscles, obtained from food) stores can actually be increased by gradually elevating mileage. Then your body starts learning how to burn fat. Next, your heart’s stroke volume increases; your heart muscle gets stronger. This is important. The heart is a pump delivering good stuff to the muscles in the blood, then shuttling away bad stuff as the muscles undergo stress.

My resting pulse is around 40, basically bradycardia, not unusual for a distance runner. (This is why every time I go to the doctor, they take my vital signs, pause and think a moment, and then go, “Are you a runner?” And I say, yep. And they answer, “OK. Good.”

The heart doesn’t work harder or faster; it works better. (Now if I would care for the rest of my body a bit more…)

Not to mention the long run is mental. I said mental. Mental. Mental I said. Did I say something? Mental. What was that?

run

*

Was Billy Mays actually Elvis? Valium, hyrocodone, oxycodone, Xanax, tramadol, and just a smidgen of cocaine…OK. Many of these were prescribed, but, as your friendly RN, can I say that taking them all together with a G & T (he also had alcohol in his system) might be a little problem. It is interesting that the cocaine made the headlines, as opposed to the others. I guess cocaine is one of the last drugs that has any chance of freaking people out. It seems a rich topic for writing, American’s JUST SAY NO vs the amazing proclivity for “legal” drugs taken daily, to, uh, make it through the day (for example, I am on caffeine right now and it’s 8 in the morning).

Here is an Elvis flash for you. I write Elvis flashes, as many of you may know (right):

It was snowing the night they say I lost my mind, and I never shot no damn TV. It was too much Budweiser on top of codeine on top of Valium on top of methaqualone and an argument with Sonny West about him cheating in racquetball that afternoon. Really it was just about me losing to a man so grossly out of shape, about self-image. I just looked in the mirror and something snapped. I tore the mirror from the wall and jumped on the bed until the bottom fell out and opened my big window and hurled all of this and one hell of a hi-fi set into the frozen swimming pool below (we never did get the cover on that year). Then I tossed a big blue lamp—some kind of glass sculpture thing—followed by a silver serving tray and a chair made to look like a leopard standing on its hind legs (given to me by Zambia’s Tourism Minister, Frederick Mwanawasa). It was all fine until I found my revolver. They’d removed the bullets (wrapped them in duct tape and hidden them in the downstairs freezer I found out later). I ranted and raved—“Where’s my ammo!” They held me down, until I passed out. The next afternoon, after I woke up on my bedroom carpet, I gave them all hell, my voice thick as cough syrup.

“Where’d my life go?” I demanded.

“In the swimming pool,” Sonny said, the rest of them nodding along.

“Oh.” I thought a moment. “Well, go get it.”

—-

back

Subaru trunk, April 2009

*

Almost submissions season, people (autumn). Get your stuff tight and your envelopes Lolly and your email all 72.3 degrees. I suggest you revise THEN send, not the other way.

A few contests you might wanna slay soon. I am biased to Flash Fiction so will show that bias here:

Second Annual Donald Barthelme Prize for Short Prose.

Newport Review Fourth Annual Flash Fiction Contest.

The Wilda Hearne Flash Fiction Contest.

*

Moving on.

Like many of us, I remember Sept 11 2001 clearly, and not. I was awoken by a phone call, this right after the second jet, etc. I called my dad (a federal employee, to ensure he wasn’t going into work. He was not.). I did go into work, at a local organic/health food store. I had two bosses, a couple formerly married who now still ran the business together. There was a grainy TV set in the office with all the horror and misinformation and general dread of the day.

Boss One (up in my face, very intense): “See? See? This is what happens when all these people get on the internet!!”

(This was an odd thing to say, but this was a very, very odd and anxious day. Though I didn’t agree with this general idea, I certainly understood the urge to just yell out things.)

Boss Two was concerned about the tiny American flags we had stuck into the flower pots outside. We were the only location in the entire city for anyone Middle Eastern (or any other foreigners in this Alabama locale) to purchase anything near to the food items necessary for an authentic meal. Would the flags somehow keep them from shopping? Would they be hesitant to enter the store? Again, an odd argument (the flags stayed; and the customers arrived as usual), but not so unusual on a day like that one.

I remember three other things, one ugly, one just weird, the other sad.

Ugly: A woman shopping in the store that afternoon approached the cashiers. She was clearly angry. She pointed at my nose and shouted out, “Is that terrorist music?!”

Like many organic food stores, we also sold “New Age” books and art and items from many countries and so on and we had literally thousands of CD’s from across the world we played on the speakers. These were popular with customers, from Zydeco to Moroccan flute, etc. These were not “terrorists music” as far as we knew, whatever that is.  The music the woman was yelling about was from Japan. The lamest part is that our boss switched out the CD.

Weird: You could look at our floor-to-ceiling windows and see the gas station across the street. Cars snaked out of the lot and down the street. Honking, engines roaring. People stood outside their cars with jugs and gas cans. This frightened me, the visual. I remember my heart kicking up; I remember saying, “Why are people buying gas? Why is that the response?”

Sad: The clearest thought I recollect is this; “We are now going to enter into perpetual war.” That thought settling on me in a low, cold cloud. That’s all I could think. And, well, here we are.

We should read Spencer Dew’s “Some Themes of the Second Bush Administration.”

It is in wigleaf’s Top 50, first pubbed in Pindeldyboz, and is an example of fiction bringing truth. I found it captivating. I found it made me think of the long day I describe above. So then I had to revisit some of my feelings. I found myself reading Dew’s piece more than once.

I haven’t seen so too many solid short fictions from that time. (There are several book-length works, DeLillo to Updike to JS Froer. And M. Amis did write the one controversial short story from the POV of an actual hijacker [a hell of a story, period]). From that day and all its residue (still with us). I like Dew’s approach. As a writer, he dives in from a slant. He turns the stone in the light. He tosses the stone in the air (it falls back and strikes us in the head). He hops about, close to, afar from the sting–he juxtaposes while mourning. He shows us something,while the something is sliding into, sliding away…Obviously, his milieu here is memory, its kin, trauma.

I said I can remember 9/11/2001, and can not. What? But pieces are missing from that day. My mind did something, maybe shut down? I couldn’t tell you one fact past noon, several hours after the actual event. It’s like a lost echo. A dream where you wake and grasp at curling wisps in the air, crackles…

My thoughts on Spencer Dew’s fine fiction went like this:

I first saw this title and thought, “Oh boy, here we go.” Heavy-handed. Didactic. I was, as is often, wrong. The title is one of three disruptions of our expectations, all colliding in the opening:

1.) Essay-like title [with an expectation of some persuasive argument against easy target Mr. Bush].

2.) A brief anecdote about a news item concerning a Cleveland man wedging his car into the side of a mosque, the man found sobbing and babbling into a phone. (actual news story here)

3.) A note on how the narrator’s girlfriend, Kathryn, “at the time” was translating Sanskrit, specifically the tale of a demon masquerading itself to kill a god by placing sharp teeth around its vagina and seducing the god into having sex. (actual myth here)

A lot of information here, in different forms, data, symbol, thought; mythology with journalistic accounts, rhetoric with character (Kathryn will act as thread to hold this fiction together, and spin it apart). It is an effective and fair beginning to this text. This is that day, that time, the one you dis-remember even now. Can’t quite grasp. Can’t understand, not really. But–in one way or another, you were present.

How did you/I/we respond? Not respond (a response itself)?

The characters seek oblivion: “What I wanted was to drive my car into something solid, a hate crime against myself. I wanted to feel that final smash and puncture, then a clammy blackness, an end. What my girlfriend wanted – she said as much, after she read the thing aloud, her translated passage, straddling me, freshly shaven – was for me to do her that way. If I could make her blackout, that was a plus, she said, just no marks that people could see when she was wearing clothes.”

Then…”October came…”

We move on, don’t we? Uh, no. Nothing moves on, ever. Remember how “Everything is going to change.” Uh, no. Remember how we were told we would no longer hold celebrity and commerce as our own seductive gods, how suddenly the new religion of “reality shows” would fade, shows about reality shows would fade, shows about shows about reality shows would…oh man (of course, we ended up gorging ourselves on more of them, and still do). We were going to be serious America now. Right?

So, October came.

Let me give you the following text as a poem, jump-cuts. Let things accumulate. Let things join and split apart.

chap stick, apple festival, flags

excess of hugging

home gyms, kitchen gadgets, so drunk or stoned

dining

clubbing

coffee drinks, centipedes

On and on. Dew captures it, doesn’t he? He’s grabbing those little wisps of smoke in the air and he’s tying them in knots (for an instant) and they are strumming and licking and he’s weaving them and he’s got his fingers all caught up together and he’s tangled and who-has-who now? And he’s trying for the impossible: memory. Memory. What does it mean?

“Kathryn and I had centipedes at the place we were living, which was her family’s place, massive and nice enough, with views of things that we thought might get blown up next, depending. We had antique furniture, Egyptian cotton sheets, seven shower heads, and centipedes scuttling across the walls or crouched up along the tuck-pointing. We’d see their shadows scurry across the floor. Twice I found them on our bed, running across a pillow, dashing under the sheets.”

Sometimes I write too much of metaphor. I am not going to write too much of metaphor here. I want you to sit with the above passage. I want you to get out a blank sheet of paper and make a note of ever centipede you felt and have felt and will feel about that day.

Time is a lost thing in these words, a skittering gasp.

Before the attacks…

We never visited campus anymore…

She called last week…

There is so much here. I don’t want to discuss it all; I want you to read it all. I think a good fiction is equal to, or maybe more, than a good essay (and maybe the title is coy here, in a smart way). A good fiction, in an infinite variety of methods, styles, ways, brings a feeling, yes, but then an argument and inquiry to the page, an in-depth look at something not fully known. It shakes me, this text, because it makes me think. I still don’t know the answers of that day, but I know more answers. And I don’t mean facts. Oh, facts. I mean fiction, as in human, as in it did happen; as in true.

S




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