Monday, October 28, 2013
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Friday, February 06, 2009
I don't want it more than I don't want it
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Party game recommendation
Friday, August 22, 2008
Some things to sum up summer, somewhere.
None of it meant anything, except all of it, do you see?
One frightened mumblus of squirrels; the patchwork fields outside of town; the backs of barns, where most people never spot the rot. I drank oil, sang songs of worship, prayed to each of my false gods and all of my true ones for respite.
I darned socks, swam upriver, stole bikes. That's my confession.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Something Else I Finally Understand
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Really, this explains so much I am surprised it doesn't explain more. It explains the tiger lilies, certainly, and how we got here.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
More about Samson
Samson is strong and pious. Today at breakfast he told me he's here doing penance for his family; his grandfather was a socialist circus geek who crossed the steppes biting the heads off saints. He likes drowning stories and brewing his own soy sauce. He doesn't measure the distances between things in his home, letting his furniture and paintings butt into each other, especially in the conversation pit that looks out over the woods.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Hatching an escape plan
It's becoming clearer that I am going to have to spin a yarn of my own to follow out of this mess, like Dedalus. That guy with his crazy shells: what was he thinking?
Only the same brainwashed yogurt-swilling chirping ninnies at breakfast; I didn't hear a word of it this time. They talk the same nonsense over and over again, except Samson, who's still so quiet. I think I trust him. But I don't know.
And who is the new one, in the grey sweats? I'll ask at lunch.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Sweet Jams from Royal Jelly
Friday, August 31, 2007
I swear there are whole days they just zap away from me.
I remember Papa returning from the woods with a brace of pheasant, and Mama saying, Goodness, where has the time gone? And I never understood until now, waking up this morning and certain it was Thursday, but learning they are saying it is not.
I wonder who I can trust around here. Minnie seemed like a good bet but that did not pay out.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
"Don't we all claim to be doctors of some kind?"
Let me tell you what I think about that. I think, what I think, seriously, is that even if I were in a coma, or dead, I would be alert enough to think that was a stupid question. I do not claim to be a doctor of any kind at all. I once told a cop I was a judge to beat a ticket for failure to yield in a traffic circle, and another time I bought a seal and pretended to be a notary, to expedite a little deal I was making, but I do not claim to be a doctor of any kind. I don't say I wouldn't be good at it, or that I don't privately go around diagnosing people, or even that I'm above a little autosurgery when I have a deep splinter or suspect blood poisoning, but just that I don't do it under the guise of some phony legitimacy. I took my tray and went to another table, but I'd lost my appetite by the time I sat back down.
Monday, August 27, 2007
What you want to know I can not say
I know this much: when autumn rusts the trees and grasses outside, the season here, in the cafeteria and the day room and our quarters, will remain chrome-bright and stainless. I can resist winter here. That must be worth something.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
I'd Like to Welcome You to the Living
Well, it's your exam, how on earth are we supposed to know which one?
Just take out your number two pencil and go room to room, for all we care--
Didn't bring one? You'll have to see if some better student brought a spare. They're wherever Trig exams are, and I'd get up there, if I were you, Buddy. You're going to miss the whole thing at this rate--
Oh. Then what did you study? Hey, are you all right? You look nervous. Is that why you forgot your pants?
Why would they be whispering about you?
Of course, I understand. The restrooms are right over there.
The doors? We took them down. Don't worry. Hardly anyone stares. When you're done, go straight to the O.R. Your patient is in labor, and you're the only one on call. It's up to you to save her, while you balance--don't fall--on the windowsill, and hold this. Don't spill! And pay this bill.
That growl? Don't worry. It's not angry, just hungry. It takes a lot of calories to stay so big and furry. It'll be fine; it really will. Just stay quiet and lie still until it eats it fill, and tires of the kill.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Saturday, June 09, 2007
I wonder if I've merely adapted, and then I doubt it.
Friday, May 25, 2007
Not enough yet, not nearly enough
Great mountains crumbled to concrete; roots, grass, worms, tamped down and sealed under the urban permafrost. And now--why is it?--you prefer the other places, where nature is winning; where hundred-year-old roots rise up laughing at our occupation. The places those same squares erupt and meet at bitter peaks.
Your bicycle, long landfill, dreams still of those slick white straightaways, and you walk, and you watch the earth revolt and this is what you love now, and that other world was a crush we had, but will never have again.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
I am working my way back around to talking about the man who claims to be a doctor.
Friday, April 13, 2007
I do need to get out of here
Sometimes it looks like the only way out, though, is through this grater, one way or another. This morning Jenna swang into breakfast like the whole meal was her idea, and she'd been out all night being congratulated for inventing it. She sits at the head of the table every morning, and I can tell it's starting to bother Samson. He thinks she's blowzy, he told me. Like I have nothing better to do than sit around and fume about Jenna with him.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
i found something ham blue, for the doubters
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Debriding doesn't have anything
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
His name is Samson
There is a German word
Later, in the deeply stupid hours of the night, it will come begging at my mind like a hungry dog, and I will feel all of the impotence a stranger feels when meeting such a dog, knowing that feeding it will only make it linger.
What is that word?
These rough children; these soiled gods. Would they even know what I meant?
Saturday, March 31, 2007
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Is this thing on?
Reserve your greatest kindness for those who prepare food out of your line of
The second, he isn't telling me yet. My eyes are dry from staring for so long, but it was a good rest.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Can't write long
Friday, January 05, 2007
Today at breakfast Dr. Arkwright told me
"That morning I woke at five with a perfect schematic drawing of a perpetual motion machine meticulously drawn in my imagination. I lay on my side in bed, running my mind's eye over each of the perfectly working parts, many nanoparticles I'd worked with in the lab.
"It occurred to me that there was a single problem, and, out loud I said, 'That gasket would have to be replaced every thirty years or so.'
"Muriel shifted and pressed herself tighter against me. I put my arm around her waist for balance, my hand on her breast for comfort.
"When next I woke, I was face down. The schematic drawing had evaporated and I was breathing against a damp spot on the pillow where my own drool had soaked the case. The covers were thrown back so there was a draft on my right side, the space next to me in the bed was empty, and there was only an accusatory depression in the mattress pad where my wife had been."
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Then she got a car. It was all right. It was blue, a Volvo, and for a month or so it had four power windows. Even after that first month, it still had three power windows. It had air conditioning in the beginning, and it definitely had heat all along. It often had as many as three good tires. And a tape player. She said she busted out all her old tapes, and some had survived her storage method (bag). She listened to them, and she wondered why she'd ever stopped listening to them, and then she stopped listening to them again. It was, as she said, all right. But then the worry set in. And soon, she was worrying constantly.
What was that sound? It was like a cranking sound, a sound of metal under strain, that sound that girders make when they collapse in movies, that she said was like the sound they played on "The Bionic Woman" while Lindsay Wagner would run in slow motion. That sound. When her mother's car made that sound, she remembered, it was the CV joint, but her car didn't have a CV joint, she was told by people she trusted. So what was the sound? It turns out, it was an exhaust rattle. And then there was the little problem of the slow tire leak, which was caused by a large nail. And the very fast tire leak, which was caused by an enormous bolt.
Then there were the brakes, which shortly after being at 50%, were gone. Which in turn was most likely a caliper problem. There was that whistle in the radiator belt. The alignment thing, too. The exhaust rattle did go away, or at least she couldn't hear it anymore when her muffler became 99% disassociated from the car, and she dragged it, home, sparking, for three miles. Could those sparks ignite the gas tank? She didn't know, so she stopped driving until that problem could be addressed, which was probably what killed the battery. Which she had replaced when she had the muffler done. But the brakes were somewhere in the mix, too, and, meanwhile, it wasn't exactly as if she had been getting free gas.
The car was getting expensive. By the time the mechanics fixed everything it was very expensive. She started driving it again, but she'd adopted a new policy of hypervigilance and she was bringing the car to the mechanics every time she drove it, almost. And when she noticed this, she also noticed it was the first time in more than a decade that she wasn't constantly worrying about cancer in her body, having displaced it to her car. Which she kept, for that reason alone.
Sunday, December 31, 2006
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Ance a comprent
Friday, December 22, 2006
I may have been disembandoned.
If the man who claimed to be a doctor let me go, really go, I think I would not return.
Everything's different and nothing's different
He says he keeps coming up with ideas that are too long to be aphorisms while he sits for Kelly's painting. She is working on the forehead and eyebrows now. He didn't expect things to go so slowly, and it's giving him a lot of time to think. I'm worried he'll change things with his version of what happens around here, but I like the idea of having someone to help me.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
This is a tree
A. W. I. A. 23: An admission
But his admission had not come as a surprise to me. I'd already caught him in fabrications and kept silent about it, waiting, gathering ammunition for the big battle that was surely to come.
I wondered what this new ploy was. It looked like a classic counterintelligence maneuver: you give them something big so that you can keep hiding something bigger. If so, then he believed that I was the one ensnared. In that event, whether he was right or not, the best thing to do was to keep still, lest my struggle tighten the knot.
I chose therefore to remain quiet and watchful and wait to see what he let slip next.
Friday, December 15, 2006
This is just a toe in the water
Monday, November 13, 2006
Today at lunch I sat next to Kurt
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Today at lunch
Sunday, November 05, 2006
I don't know how they did it so quickly
A.W.I.A. 22: More Back
It was like this: If I was not a prisoner, I did not have to reenter the room with the man who claimed to be a doctor. But maybe I was being led to believe I was not a prisoner so that I would trust him, and actually, his net was just too big to feel like a net yet? Eventually, I would swim into the ropes. But, because I did this thought experiment, I quickly saw the only way to continue to imagine that I was not a prisoner was to avoid seeking proof of my freedom.
I decided to reenter the room. The man who claimed to be a doctor was sitting at the table where I'd left him, trying to look like he'd been doing that the whole time. Fair enough.
"Hello," he told me.
I did not see how this could be a trap. "Hello," I said back, after due consideration.
The man sighed. "Why don't you and I just level with each other?"
"Have you not leveled with me?" I asked. I was frankly surprised he'd give so much away so quickly, but could only assume it meant he was hiding more than I'd imagined.
"Maybe," said the man who claimed to be a doctor.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
A.W.I.A. 21: Back
The main thing that you need to know was that when I left there, I headed back to the room where the man who claimed to be a doctor waited for me, and I stopped just short of the door. Behind me the hall deadended after the bathroom at a window wall. But ahead, past more doors, the hall ahead bent in an inviting way: the left wall continued about ten feet after the right wall discontinued, until it struck another wall, a perpendicular one. At the scene of this collision two chairs at right angles had cornered a ficus and guarded it like puffy orange vinyl dogcatchers with chrome legs. There was a busy kind of quiet about the place: the implied hum of the overhead fluorescents, and muffled voices just out of earshot.
I did a little thought experiment. If I was not a prisoner, I reasoned, I did not have to reenter the room with the man who claimed to be a doctor.
Friday, November 03, 2006
I'm hungry and we won't have lunch for at least an hour.
Loretta, I know you don't want to tell, but it's the only way out of here. You have to tell them your whole story. This is mine:
The first sign was that he was a man. The next was that he did not stop his car at the check point. The third sign came when Drew called out, and he still did not stop. We watched for things that would be fine at home but, there, took on an edge. In the tank, yards off, I might have been safe, but the folks in the square would not have. We were there for them, so they could live their lives. It was my job to stop him.
He might have been deaf, like the one Bates stopped, or just not have had his mind on things, or not.
I called out the code. I fired. The glass broke and the car hit the wall.
I held my breath. There was no bang or boom. But there could have been, they said when they'd gone through the car, if he'd done it right. And when they told me they'd found his hands taped to the wheel, his foot taped to the gas, I knew what it felt like to be him.
Lance Cooper Tanner
You can't tell from this, but his handwriting is very old-fashioned.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Well, it must have been the costume.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
the man who claims to be a doctor claims that i broke faith with you.
What masks people had on yesterday: Sergeant Tanner dressed as Possibility; if I can find a picture I will post it here. And I went as an egg: for my communicative break-fast. Dr. Arkwright once pointed out to me that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny in the daily cycle of human meals, too, when you think about it. We eat the embryo for breakfast, and the mature chicken for dinner.
Friday, October 06, 2006
What this says about the people they get here, I don't know.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Marty, who's new, took this picture in the common room.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
A. W. I. A. 20: The hardware
First of all, there was money involved. Obviously a great deal of it. People who worry about money, I thought, don't have that kind of hardware. They have small hinges,the kind you can get anywhere.
There was much more at stake here than I'd previously supposed, I realized, and I would have to reevaluate everything.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Blu~ and I have come to an agreement...
Meanwhile, I thought I had it bad, but it seems it can still be had worse. I urge you all to rally around a suffering member of our community, Egvadz Floincz.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
the man who claims to be a doctor...
How is making someone not wish to leave different from making someone stay?
But I have come up with a way around even this obstacle. I wish so hard to stay that I don't think about not leaving, making all of his exertions beside the point.
I found this picture from home.
I think I understand some things now that I didn't before, or at least this could be the key to those things, don't you see?
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
How can it have been a week...
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Also, a propos of yesterday's comments
i don't usually get into it with you people...
But I will say that a couple of things have happened that you maybe were not aware I was aware of.
1. Blumertha and Blu~ have agreed, which is already confusing enough; they are not two sides of the same coin, and yet, this puts us all on notice doesn't it? Although, to be sure, only Blu~ acknowledges their agreement; Blumertha couldn't possibly be in discord. Junie H., I have nothing to say about. I regret even acknowledging her presence here, and she knows why. Her comments, littered throughout my private reflections ever since I found the pictures that reminded me of home, constitute an intrusion of the worst sort.
2.Then, some important people in their respective fields have been introduced into this fray, including:
--the person some say is the heir to DJ2NoDee's hip-hop kingdom, DJ3NoDee. The problem is that, as you can see here, DJ3NoDee is misquoted so often it's hard to know what's really being said.3. No one, and I mean not one single person has answered to my satisfaction Patrick Rapa's question of the missing water.
--Menos Budow, the late occultist geometrician. See the comments of DJ3NoDee above.
--Egvadz Floincz, of course, needs no modifier. Just look at the comments Floincz left here and here.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
They know these kinds of things upset me.
Maybe too easy, really, to say that I've got a fear of scars: too Freudian, perhaps, or worse, too on the nose: like Maureen, who has a fear of mushrooms, and it seems to me, when I give it any thought, natural. Mushrooms live in the moist dark, feeding silently on death--the skin between your toes as much as the fallen sycamore or that old basement carpet. Mushrooms (tumid, fleshy) are wherever death is, gorging on it, and it makes perfect sense to me, on those grounds alone, to avoid them.
A scar in linoleum, or on a skyline, is no different from a scar on a body--a record of violence, incursion, impact, or eruption. A possibly, though not necessarily, unkind contact.
Friday, September 01, 2006
just when I was sure no one understood...
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
I have not been able to post for a while...
She says that it's more important to be organized than anything else, and she's having trouble organizing her things here.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
It was so late but I couldn't sleep.
Last night, I got out of bed and wrote this down: two people were missing at supper, Joseph and Kelly, and they were replaced by people who looked exactly like them. I was calm outwardly, but inside I was profoundly disturbed. Was it appropriate to acknowledge the switch? Would I want someone to acknowledge it to the person who filled in for me, if I were the one replaced?
Monday, August 21, 2006
One of the things that's come up, with the man who's supposed to be a doctor:
A little light comes in, but not much
Maybe I have mentioned Joseph to you, but I don't believe I've told you much about him. The main thing that you should know is that he's new, and he's very tired, and he mostly rests. He's an entropist, and, as such, he says, he's particularly interested in what's going on here. I find myself at odds with him when he does talk. For the first time in a long time, it seems like things are actually coming together.
Every day I tell the man who claims to be a doctor about the people I have lunch with, and their dreams, not because I want to, but because he asks, and I am trying to demonstrate that I am cooperative--that if I go, I will not show up on their radar again.
Still, in telling him, I am beginning to understand certain things, and maybe I will tell you about those. It is important to me that you know that I trust you.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
A. W. I. A. 19: I can't wait any longer
At first, I thought they were solid steel; but then the true horror of them became clear to me: they are hollow aluminum tracks, giving the appearance of solidity but really more of a veneer.
There are these sick springs with protruding ends--can you see them in the photo? like claws--that resist pinching and will force the door closed when it is left open, so that the facades of the stalls always present the same unyielding faces. It makes my stomach hurt to think about what all this means. I will tell you more later.
A. W. I. A. 18: I see what he's up to
You see, the bathroom was like something out of a nightmare.
The floor positively seethed with razor-edged squares of white tile, a blizzard of matte ceramic that would never melt away in the fluorescent glare. And the monstrous mosaic was not content to remain contained in a single plane; it turned up the walls at the floor's edges and climbed toward the ceiling, avid and eager, stopping only at a white-and-black checked border pattern at eye level. I saw then, how it was all so black and white.
I had not even got into the stall, which was where the real horror began. I think I will be able to show you a picture of that tomorrow, but for now, I have to go. It's getting harder to get a moment away, and everyone is tensening.
Today at breakfast Jenna told a joke: "Why did the pine tree throw a party? Because it wanted to be poplar." Then she burst into tears. Sergeant Tanner said, "I didn't get my stripes telling tree jokes, Girl."
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
I had a visitor...
Also, Garland says he is doing better but this is his new aphorism: "If life gives you kids, make kid gloves."
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
and something else:
Sunday, August 13, 2006
I have to stop here and say something
Thursday, August 10, 2006
A. W. I. A. 17: The sort of game it was
It was all getting to be too much. I had been his guest for hours and he'd offered me nothing to eat; I'd only gotten a cup of coffee by practically demanding it, and at no time was I given a tour of the facilities.
It was all too much.
"I need to use the restroom," I told him.
"By all means," said the man who claimed to be a doctor. "Go ahead."
This was an outrage. "Well, where? Here?"
"I beg your pardon," said the man who claimed to be a doctor; and he did seem embarrassed. "I didn't realize you didn't know where it was." He pointed to some destination past the door and to the right. "It's the next door on the right."
"Well, how am I supposed to get out of this room? Don't you need to ring for someone? Or escort me?"
The man who claimed to be a doctor looked like he was pretending to be puzzled. "The door is unlocked. And I'll just wait here."
A. W. I. A. 16: Another stop
I was disinnocented of him already; he'd shown he could not be trusted. I stared down at the coffee he'd brought me, and the little pile of coffee additives--creamer, sweetener--and I looked back at him.
"What is this?"
"What is what?" he asked me. "The coffee you asked for?"
"What is this place, this room, this game?"
"What makes you think it's a game?"
A. W. I. A. 15: Squaring off in circles
Instead, I told him they looked like golf spectators, thinking that would be good, with all that 'golf spectators' implied: cheery, sunny people gathered to watch something they found exciting, for reasons I could not even begin to guess at. But a hitch before I finished the sentence told the man I had changed course.
"Why did you pause there?" he asked me.
"Where?" I asked. I knew, of course. But consistency was going to be important here, and the kind of person who might think tiger lilies looked like golf spectators would not be the kind of person who looked too deeply into her own motives.
"Before you said 'golf spectators.' You paused as if you might be about to describe them in a different way."
I shook my head--not in a contrary way, but the way I might if I were mystified. "I'm not sure."
The man nodded. "All right, then." He wrote a note on his pad.
I tried to read it, but his handwriting was small and jagged, like shards of glass.
"What was that?" I asked him.
I could see he was appraising me. Looking for the canniest course. Would he feign ignorance or--now that he knew I had him trapped--would he come clean?
"I just wrote myself a note," he said.
This was non-responsive in the extreme. "What does it say?"
"I am starting a garden."
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Another quick interruption, a visitor
Sergeant Tanner spotted this guy when we came back from supper. I wish I could feel confident that things were being run the right way around here, but a thing like this, even if it wasn't deliberate, makes you wonder. They know he is not equipped to deal with this sort of break in routine. I was able to take care of it this time, but what if I'm not around next time? I'm not sure who else here can help. These concerns will probably make this take even longer.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
A. W. I. A. 14: The subject changed
"I saw trees. I mean, I looked at them and really saw them. Several were blooming. One had light green blossoms that smelled like fermenting honey." I thought but didn't say, more corruption, more rot. If he noticed I hadn't said that, he gave no sign.
The man nodded. It seemed all it entailed these days to claim to be a doctor was the ability to ask questions you know the answers to; nod and breathe in a theatrical way; and occasionally doodle on a pad or fetch coffee.
If I had asked for a pad before, I might have written this idea down when I had it. As it was, I'd foregone asking for a pad to avoid letting the man know I was on to him. I continued: "On one lawn I saw a stand of tiger lilies, tall and straight, standing massed like--"
I stopped. I had thought they looked like mourners at a funeral, but of course, that wouldn't do. "They looked like golf spectators."
Monday, August 07, 2006
A. W. I. A. 13: Changing the subject
He asked, "Why is this making you uncomfortable?"
But I wouldn't play along with that, either. "It's not," I said. "I just don't want to talk about it. I am very comfortable. Here. With you. So comfortable, in fact, that I'd like to insist that we change the subject."
He knew he'd won that round. How could he not? I'd practically handed it to him. But I still held some cards. For instance,
I had not yet tasted the coffee he'd brought me. But I had restored some kind of balance by insisting we change the subject.
I could tell he was trying to prove things about me to himself, and to any others in league with him, but I had only told him the truth, and answered his questions honestly. I could see, now, however, that in the long run that approach would get us nowhere. I would be more careful.
He sat back in his chair. "Tell me about the rest of your walk, why don't you?"
A. W. I. A. 12: More telephone wires he pretended not to understand
The man who claimed to be a doctor was asking me to elaborate on the horrors of telephone wires, as if they weren't perfectly obvious.
"Look, they cut stigmata through the trees to make way for them. And there are stray things in them, things that can't have anything to do with the voices they carry."
"Like a spoked steel thing that's some crazy cross between a bicycle wheel and a snowshoe."
The man appeared to think. He looked at his pad, where nothing was written. "Why did you describe the black boxes as horrible?"
"They are dark chambers where secret couplings happen. What's not horrible about that?"
He shrugged and nodded, a vacillation and an affirmation at the same time. "And why would you use the word 'stigmata'?"
"Look, why ask me these questions? Why not run out and look for yourself? Those things are ugly and crazy. The poles are bound with steel wires because they are trying to fall apart out of shame. I don't want to talk about it."
Saturday, August 05, 2006
A. W. I. A. 11: Telephone wires.
"How so?" he wanted to know.
"None of them are stretched neatly between the poles. There's always some nonsense mixed in."
He raised his eyebrows. "Nonsense?"
"Yes. Black vinyl bladders that look like half-inflated blood-pressure cuffs. Or some horrible box with vicious diagonal ridges on it. Some of the poles have these garbage can-sized cylinders stuck to them like ticks, only with wires all feeding into them. The black boxes have a strangle of wires plugged into them, too. And some of the wires are stripped. And their casings hang down like the limp leftovers of some sick ticker-tape parade."
"Because what's there to parade about in the decay of communication?"
The man who claimed to be a doctor was looking at me like what I was saying surprised him. But they knew I had taken a walk. They had seen my route. They would have seen the same telephone wires I saw. The man had either been inadequately briefed or he was a very good actor. Was it possible he did not know any of this already? No. He was a very good actor indeed.
A. W. I. A. 10: The return of the man who claimed to be a doctor
He set it before me and reached into the pocket of his pants for something, which he dropped on the table, too. It turned out to be two sealed cups of cream substitute and some mixed sugar and saccharine packets.
"I didn't know how you take it," he told me.
"I just take it as it comes," I answered.
He did not answer, just resumed his seat on the other side of the table, facing me.
He picked up the pen he'd left at a studiedly casual angle on the pad in front of him. He put it down again. He folded his hands. He looked at me.
"Let's try something different," he said. "Why don't you tell me what you did this morning."
Did he know the answer already? How long had they been watching me before they came to get me? At this juncture, I deemed it prudent to tell the truth. "I went for a walk. First thing. Right when I woke up. Around my neighborhood."
He nodded. I assumed, then, they had been watching me. "All right," he said. "Why don't you tell me about that."
"I noticed that telephone wires don't look anything like what you picture. Or what I picture, anyway, when I picture telephone wires. They're a mess."
Friday, August 04, 2006
A. W. I. A. 9: Is it time to continue with the interview?
What happened next, after they came and got me and took me away for no reason at all, and after I had been talking for some time to the man who was supposed to be a doctor, and getting nowhere with him, was that I asked for a cup of coffee and he said he'd get me one.
Then, he stood and went to the door and turned the knob and walked out. Whoever was standing guard in the hall--if that's where they stand guard, and not somewhere else with a bank of monitors--was out of sight. He did not close the door and I could see a bit of the wall in the hallway, and nothing else, while he padded away.
I didn't know where he'd gone for coffee or how long it would take him to return.
I looked at the pad he'd left. The page I could see was blank, but I felt sure I'd seen him write something, and one page was folded backwards over the binding. Maybe that was the page he'd been writing on. I started to reach across the table, then stopped and let my hand fall to its enamel surface: his pen lay across the blank page.
I didn't know how many cameras were watching me, or whether he'd simply marked the angle at which he'd placed the pen across the pad; there was such a choreographed quality of unconsciousness to that angle, though, and to the entire situation, that I could only conclude this was another test.
I decided to pass it. But I was still figuring out whether that meant stealing a peek at the pad or leaving it be when I heard footsteps again. I pulled my hand to my chest so fast that whoever was watching me might have supposed I'd gotten a shock from the table. My heart was pounding, but I tried to look composed as I prepared for him to reenter the room. But he didn't come. Instead I heard a door nearby open and the hum of voices or perhaps a radio before it closed again.
Monday, July 31, 2006
The rest of Minnie
I was still in the stylist's chair when the cameraman got a call that it was time to go check on Ray, and he just left, before my hair was done. She cut off eighteen inches, and I thought it was strange he didn't stay to take a picture of what it looked like. But then I thought the new haircut would be on the tape when I showed up at the house. But I thought it was weird.
The make-up lady asked me what the show was called again, and I couldn't remember. And then when it was all done, it was just over. And no one came to pick me up. And so I decided to take a cab home. And when I got home,the trucks were all gone, and the house looked very quiet.
I thought, Well, they're all inside getting ready to surprise me.
I even thought I saw someone moving by the window. It must have been a reflection. But, by then there were so many things that didn't make sense that I kept making up more and more bizarre excuses. Isn't it funny how your mind can come up with explanations for anything?
And so I was even really kind of self-conscious about how to walk into the house, I felt so sure there was a hidden camera recording the first look at the new me.
I tried to look pretty and confident and not touch my hair, or mess up my make-up. And I walked up to the house, so sure it was going to be unlocked, and everyone inside. And it was locked, so when I started to turn the knob and walk in, I just sort of walked into the door instead. And I thought, I hope they edit that out.
When no one opened the door even then, that was when I started to tell myself something was wrong. Maybe not tell myself, but feel it, because I did feel it, sharply, like a pain in my stomach. But I took out my key and unlocked the door, and I remember once the door was unlocked, I froze for a second.
I think I wanted to take that last second before it all became actually true. Do you understand? Before I had to say to myself, Yes, this was not what it looked like. Or how it was originally explained to me.
And also, maybe I've added this, or my memory sort of mixed everything together, so that the emptiness that was waiting for me on the other side of that door, it's been added to the me that was on the outside, getting ready to meet it, but I don't think so. Sometimes you can feel the emptiness of a place. It makes a sound, like the opposite of the hum of a television somewhere down a long hall or upstairs, that you can just feel.
So I walked in and of course I saw right away that everything was gone, except the TV, actually. And there was a videotape with a sticky note on it that said "play me."
And I put the tape in, standing on the bare floor in my empty living room, and it was a tape of them throwing my looms out of the back of the truck into a dump. Then it showed Ray and the perky host laughing while they cut up the sweater I made, and then Ray said, "I hate pullovers, Minnie." And then the two of them kissed.
Kelly still does not believe it, but I do. I really do.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
Minnie, for the third time
I had to stop telling Minnie's story in the middle, but I was up to the part where she signed all the releases that the video crew gave her. She continued:
Anyway, the gist of it was that I was going to be whisked away in a limo for a day at a spa, and all the neighbors came out and were laughing. I mean you should have seen them. And asking questions. Carol and Melody waved me off when the limo drove away. And them taping the whole time.
I wasn't really comfortable with it, but I wanted Ray to be happy with his anniversary surprise.
At the salon, they cut my hair. Only a cameraman had come with me, and I thought that was strange, but he had the stylist say who she was and she read me a note from Ray, saying "My love, you're so beautiful and I want you to shine on this special day. Time to cut that hair!" Well, I didn't want that, but I was thinking, he went to so much trouble.
The man is here again. More questions. I will finish typing this up in a bit.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
More from Minnie
It was our anniversary. Our tenth. Ray had been secretive for weeks, hinting he was planning something huge. Something special. He'd been kind of giddy, even, but, again: secretive.
I had been planning something for him, too. In secret, I'd measured his favorite sweater, a cardigan, and I'd used the pattern to design another one for him, a pullover, which he claimed to dislike, but I had a feeling he'd like this one. I'd designed it entirely myself, beautiful cables and popcorn-filled diamonds. It was beautiful.
Minnie had to stop talking for a moment, but then she continued.
But anyway, the morning--well, the night before our anniversary he told me he was going to work very early in the morning so he could be home in time for the big surprise later. I told him to wake me before he left, but he didn't. I got up at seven as usual, and I was setting the house in order, and then I heard this incredible noise in the street, like those speakers the kids have, playing loud music. Our street was always quiet, so I went to look and it was these two trucks that said "Home Invasion" or something, and, I mean, they had a whole crew, and they came right to my door.
There was a carpenter and a perky redhead who introduced herself as the host. She had a microphone and there was a camera man. They had me take them through the whole house and show them everything.
I mean, I've seen those shows on TV but I don't watch them. I don't even really know why. But so I had to take them through the whole hous and I was just glad I'd dressed and put on a nice outfit.
I showed them my fiber studio, where I have my looms and my spinning wheels and they asked me questions and had me do a little spinning and weaving demonstration, after they told me I had to sign a release to be on TV.
So I signed all the papers they gave me and we went around the house, and they made comments, too--mean things. They said my den was thirty years out of date.
But it was comfortable.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Another thing, before we continue
I know I was telling you about the interview, and Minnie, and I will finish those stories, but right now I have to tell you something else that I just remembered. It happened, before I ever got here, when I was working in a shoe store:
On a bright sunny summer afternoon I looked up from the counter and saw a woman had come in who had long wavy hair to her waist, and water was streaming off of her. She was barefoot and she hesitated in the doorway the way you might if you were figuring out the best route across a sea of broken glass.
She never said a word the whole time I waited on her--and she never did find a pair of shoes she could walk in without pain. She left barefoot, too, and, though she had her back to me, I was pretty sure,from the way she put her hand over her face and her shoulders were shaking, that she was crying.
Another time, I was crossing the street in an American city when I saw a parade of ten men and women in full Revolutionary War uniforms; there was a penny-whistler, a drummer, and they all had on tri-corner hats, too.
I know how to read signs, but I don't know how to know which things are signs, and which things are just whatever they are.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Today at lunch...
"Sometimes I wonder how money changes relationships," Kelly told me.
"Do you think it changed that one?" I asked her.
"Maybe," she said. "Maybe if he'd sprung for a louder bathroom fan or I'd invested in a quieter vibrator, things would not have been so weird when we saw each other. But I just don't know."
Some days the cruelty of this wall is breathtaking; some days it seems like a gift to have it there, keeping what's on the other side invisible and inaudible.
A few months before their tenth wedding anniversary her husband became giddy and secretive, hinting that he was planning a huge surprise. Minnie was planning a surprise, too: an Aran sweater she'd designed, a pullover. She knew he preferred cardigans but she felt this might be an exception--plus, she was not confident enough in her measurements or knitting skills to plan a cardigan. She spun the yarn herself, from wool roving she bought online.
The night before their anniversary, Minnie's husband told her he was leaving early the next morning, so he'd be home in time for the surprise in the evening.
She told him to wake her before he left, but when she woke up at 7 am, he was gone, and there was only a note telling her not to go anywhere that morning.
I'll tell you the rest later; they're telling us to go to sleep now.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
A.W.I.A, Part 8: Tired
"I've answered a lot of your questions," I told him.
He raised his eyebrows.
"I've been here a long time and I've answered a lot of your questions," I said again.
"Which ones in particular do you feel you've answered?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"I don't think you've answered as many questions as you think you have," he told me, now folding his arms across the pad.
"Nevertheless," I said, "It's time for me to ask something of you."
"I'm not making any promises, but what is it?"
"I'd like a cup of coffee," I told him.
"That I can do," he said, rising.
A.W.I.A, Part 7
I felt the room, already small, getting smaller. I became aware of the way a beam of late afternoon sun streamed through the single high corner window and was cut off a few inches further along by the gray wall. This was what they wanted to do to me: cramp, deny, prune, truncate. Already, I had been meeting with the man who was supposed to be a doctor for over an hour, and no accommodations had been made for my comfort.
I looked at him. Already, I have told you, he was not bad-looking. He slouched a little in his chair. His sleeves were rolled up and and his bare forearms were on the the table on either side of the lined pad where his pen rested, the hands open and palm-down on the table. The arrangement of his forearms--further apart at the wrist than at the elbow--seemed sympathetic to me, if not my cause.
Friday, July 21, 2006
another interruption, about supper.
This is the view from the window in the room where we eat breakfast, lunch and supper.
Supper tonight was strange: A dish billed as Hamburger Abendblatt, and roasted vegetables. We were all tired, and ate in an unaccustomed and uncomfortable silence.
I don't care for the silence. You look out into the wide open space beyond the window while you think tighter and tighter thoughts in smaller and smaller circles and, finally, they all narrow to a point: something is wrong.
A.W.I.A, Part 6: He Tells Me Stories
He did not even acknowledge that I was blushing. Instead, he said, "I am going to tell you three stories I heard today, and then I'll ask you which one sounds most plausible."
I watched him.
"All right?" he asked. "You understand?"
"Perhaps," I told him.
"Good enough," he said. "I'll number the stories, for easy reference."
Then he held up a hand--fingers folded to the palm, thumb out--so suddenly that I flinched. If he's adding hand signals, I thought, I don't know what I'll do. But he was indicating the beginning of the first story.
"One. A woman was sitting quietly in her home. Authorities came and removed her for no reason at all."
With a crisp little flick he extended his index finger from his palm. With his thumb, it made an L. I wondered if that meant something; if he was spelling, as well as counting. "Two. A woman threw a chair through a second-floor window, hitting her neighbor's car. Authorities came and removed her." This, then was the second story.
Another crisp flick and his middle finger was up, his fingers forming a trident, a tilted K, the Hebrew letter shin. "Three: A woman was removed from her home following the receipt by a certain party of a number of threatening letters. She told the people who came to remove her that she had mailed the letters in self-defense, as a response to certain coded, televised messages."
I nodded again. These were the three stories, and now I understood. They were all equally plausible, and of course, that was what made it such a clever question. But I could only say for certain that one of them was true, because it was mine. To the man who was supposed to be a doctor I said,
"The first is the one that I know to be true."
Movement of a certain kind
For now, I'll tell you that I sat with Corporal Tanner at breakfast again, and said, "How do you do this morning, Corporal Tanner?"
He told me he was well. He was not, however, a corporal, but a sergeant. Furthermore, he said, I could call him by his first name, Lance. His full name is Lance Cooper Tanner, and when he got here, someone misread his file and thought he was a Lance Corporal.
I felt a new spark in Sergeant Tannner today. He's done more than correct what we call him; he's moving differently. Before his movements were marked by an economy, maybe even a parsimony. When he was not in transit or eating, he sat tense and unmoving.
But now his stillness has a calmer quality, and today he even performed what could only be described as a gratuitous gesture (a sort of one-armed shrug, while the other arm remained at his side) when he was telling the story about the mix-up with his rank.
I've become more aware of motion here. There's so little furniture, so little scenery, that people are almost all I have to look at. Garland and Arkwright both hesitate before moving, looking around, for permission, maybe, and when they do stand and walk it seems like each step pains them, like the little mermaid in the fairy tale. Meanwhile Jenna moves swiftly and heedlessly, like an animal with no known predators. I don't clearly remember noticing how the anthropologist and the ethaesthetics professor moved, and both have now left our group. Minnie, who's new, is still shy, and I'm not sure I can describe her yet.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
We will get back to the interview, but today I had lunch with...
He told me that he feels his aphorisms have become better and better, but the market for the high-end work is really limited. The last thing he sent his agent before coming here, months ago, was a pitch for a bumper sticker that read, "If you could just tell people what they need to know, we'd all be a bumper sticker away from salvation." It still hasn't been sold.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
A.W.I.A, Part 5: The Tables Turned, and Turned Again
He looked surprised, certainly. "What do you mean by that?"
"What do I mean by that? Exactly what I said. What could I mean by that?"
"That's exactly what I would like to know."
He seemed like a bright enough man. Cagy, certainly. But was he? Out loud, I wondered,
"What is the virtue of an intelligence that renders clear things cryptic?"
He let my question hang there before answering, but I was already blushing to my ears when he said,"I might ask the same of you."
I had fallen right into his trap. Or was it a trap? Had he set it deliberately or inadvertently? Either way, I'd failed myself by blushing.
A.W.I.A, Part 4: More Interview
This was not exactly what he'd said. I know because I have a very good memory. What he'd said was similar--uncannily similar--but nonetheless different.
I was ready for this kind of discrepancy in ordinary people, but this man was supposed to be a doctor. I didn't imagine a man of learning, a man of science, would permit this degree of inexactitude. It occurred to me that I ought to ask for a paper and a pen to document this conversation--he had a pad and pen, after all, even if he didn't seem to use it much.
But I decided not to ask him just then. It wasn't any kind of giving in or submission. Although, yes, I was not asking for something that I did want, so it might have looked like that. But actually, this was a way to preserve my power. As soon as he was aware of my desire to document the interview, he'd know I was on to him, and he would become more cautious about what he gave away. I had to keep him open and trusting me, so I could continue to study him.
I studied him now. He was not bad-looking, I decided. He had a clean-shaven face, bright eyes and reasonable eyebrows. He did seem tired. His shoulders sloped.
When we had been quiet for a long time, he laid his hands flat on the table.
"Look," he said. "I listen to stories for a living."
He was being honest with me, so I felt I could be honest with him.
I told him, "That does not sound like a grown-up occupation."
Friday, July 14, 2006
A.W.I.A, Part 3: The interview continues
Oh, no, we weren't going to do that. But how to get out of it? At first I didn't answer at all. Then I said, "I don't remember."
"You don't remember what you said just a minute ago?"
Was this evidence that would be counted against me, too? What was the right answer?
"I remember saying so," I said. "But I don't remember what I meant."
"Look," he said, "if you don't remember what you meant," and he emphasized remember in a particular way which told me quite clearly he did not believe me, "Why don't you just tell me what you suppose you might have meant by saying such a thing?"
"Well," I said. Then I stopped. There was a way this question could trip me up, but I didn't see how. "I guess I meant that you were speaking enigmatically." He didn't move or give any other sign he'd heard me, just kept watching.
"Cryptically." No response.
Still no response for a moment, then he shook his head the way you might if a fly was buzzing around. "I understand what enigmatically means," he told me. "Allow me to ask my question again."
I waited. Would he repeat himself to see if I changed my story? He took a deep breath, then said, "I said, people who tell stories with missing parts, in my experiences, usually constitute the missing parts themselves."
Monday, July 10, 2006
A.W.I.A, Part 2: The Interview
And I said I couldn't believe it. This was the problem? They were keeping me here for being a lousy writer?
But when I said that, he said something strange: "When people tell stories with missing parts, they--their behavior and actions--are usually themselves the missing parts."
Now he was speaking in riddles, but I knew enough to understand that he was accusing me of something, saying that I was responsible for something, and I was withholding it.
I did not let on that I understood that much, however, because I knew that the appearance that I understood his accusation would amount to a confession.
"I do not understand when you speak to me in riddles," I said.
"Did I speak to you in a riddle?" he said.
"You did," I said. "You most certainly did." Immediately I regretted adding the second part: I did not wish to be too assertive, as he might see that as a statement of weakness. To temper the assertion in the last sentence, I said again (but more softly, as if I were merely clarifying, rather than insisting), "You did speak to me in a riddle." Then I became silent.
He watched me. I watched him watch me. Then I became aware that my watching him might seem like a challenge. I thought about looking away, but wouldn't that seem like a confession of some kind, too? When two starving dogs encounter each other, the first to look away is likely to become dinner for the second, isn't he? Rather than look away, I changed my focus to take in all of him, and, once I saw him, I understood his angle.
His posture gave away his hope that I would give something away; that was obvious, and would have been a joke if I were not more or less his prisoner. Still, I laughed to myself.
"What's funny?" He asked.
"Nothing," I said.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
About Where I Am, Part 1: I Wasn't Doing Anything.
Then I had to talk for the longest time to this man who was trying to prove certain things about me, certain things that are not true, that I have shown before to be untrue, but they weren't interested in that, not at all.
After a while, the man, who claimed to be a doctor but who is not like any doctor I have ever seen, because he is utterly without compassion, for one thing, said, "But the problem is you are telling me a broken story. Your story does not make sense."
I could not believe it. This was the problem? In other words, they were holding me against my will for being a lousy writer?
Thursday, July 06, 2006
The Taste of Pain: Foie Gras
For instance, everybody knows how Dr. Arkwright, having amassed a fortune as a chemist for the petroleum industry, retired while still in his forties; fewer people are aware that his well-known wife, Muriel, was not his first wife, or that an earlier marriage, childless by design, ended in divorce. Almost no one knows that his second marriage, too, very nearly ended in divorce, after just two years, when Muriel told Arkwright she'd rather be a single mother than a married woman without a child. She was a tenured professor at an excellent university, had resources of her own, and her reproductive window was slowly sliding shut--she didn't want to miss her chance, although she loved him a great deal.
By then, Arkwright (by dint of professional and personal interests, a seasoned global traveler) had become accustomed to a certain amount of movement during the long breaks in Muriel's academic calendar. He and Muriel both loved to cook, and they also loved exotic cuisine. He expected that a child would hamper his movement and require, when he and Muriel did travel, that arrangements be made for its care in every city they visited when they wanted an evening in a fine restaurant or a day of strenuous outdoor exploration.
But his divorce had been more painful to him than he'd let on to anyone; he'd never said a word to a soul about it, but he even wondered if it hadn't been the final stress that caused his terminally ill mother's passing.
Dr. Arkwright did not foresee the great love he would feel for his daughter, or the wonder she would inspire in him. She was named Hannah Louise, for his mother, and Muriel's, but Dr. Arkwright always called her Angel, Bunny Rabbit, Lamb, and they brought her with them everywhere, after all.
At four years old, Hannah Louise, in a New York City restaurant, overheard Dr. Arkwright order rabbit. In a whisper, she asked, "Bunny rabbit?" When he nodded, her father felt a deep sense of shame.
Shortly thereafter, Hannah Louise, his own bunny rabbit, became a vegetarian, and Dr. Arkwright began to change the way he thought about food. He and Muriel cooked together on the weekends, but Dr. Arkwright cooked dinners during the week when Muriel was working. At first, it was no trouble to prepare a separate meal for Hannah Louise; she was an agreeable child with a fairly daring palate, and she never refused to taste anything, as long as she was assured it wasn't meat. But after a few weeks, Dr. Arkwright began to be concerned about Hannah Louise's development; didn't a child need meat? And when he did a little research he became interested in ways to vary her diet and see to it her nutritional needs were met. He found himself unsatisfied with the vegetarian substitutes for certain ingredients and he tried to understand why they were not better.
The research itself appealed to him, and it was not too long after that when Dr. Arkwright found himself overseeing construction of a new outbuilding on their property, a laboratory. By Hannah Louise's fifth birthday it was finished, and Dr. Arkwright came out of retirement and started studying the chemistry of food flavor, texture and and the components of taste.
Over the next few years, as it is well-known, many of his discoveries made their way to the market under the label Arkwright Farms. The innovation which made his bacon substitute such a success was a rigid but airy soy-derived matrix: the honeycomb-shaped quaternary structure of the molecule is reproduced in the Arkwright Farms logo. The matrix absorbs and holds oil so well that it gives the non-hydrogenated fat the appearance and texture of solidity at high heat as well as room temperature. This discovery made possible a kind of marbling in meat substitutes superior to any seen yet, but it was also applied to certain baked goods which formerly required eggs.
In all, it was a triumph, and Dr. Arkwright was thrilled with his results. As a spokesman and advocate for his own products, he'd also moved toward an increasingly vegetarian diet, but there was one thing he missed. And so, some ten years after Hannah Louise had declared herself a vegetarian, Dr. Arkwright's labors produced something odd, something unexpected by all except those who knew him best. He achieved a method of synthesizing foie gras: oil and other extracts of avocado; rye protein and proprietary flavoring additives were combined, then secreted into an acid bath where (through a distillation reaction whose only byproduct was water) the mixture reacted by coalescing into a fragile but unmistakeably solid structure, as light as a mousse.
The flavor was, to Dr. Arkwright, indistinguishable from foie gras, but when he gave it to his foodie friends, they said it wasn't as good. He hired an independent testing agency to administer blind taste tests, telling subjects only that they would be given two different products and asked to say which they preferred. Subjects said they could not taste a difference between the two, and then picked one or the other at random.
Dr. Arkwright had the agency repeat the tests, identifying the foie gras and the substitute to the subjects, and this time the subjects universally preferred the foie gras.
Dr. Arkwright had the agency repeat the tests a third time, this time telling the subjects the substitute was the foie gras, and the foie gras was said to be the substitute, and this time the subjects universally preferred the misidentified substitute to its slandered authentic alternate.
Troubled, Dr. Arkwright asked Hannah Louise and several of her vegetarian friends to taste his faux gras. They liked it. He asked a friend who was the chef at a very good restaurant to offer it as a courtesy to some of his guests, at no charge; the feedback was exceedingly positive.
Muriel at the time was on sabbatical. She'd dispatched a book project faster than she expected when a publisher changed a deadline to take advantage of a conference, and she was at loose ends. Her essay, The Taste of Pain, began when she took up the work of documenting and examining what Dr. Arkwright had come to call the faux gras phenomenon: that it appears that a component of the pleasure of eating certain animal products is enhanced by the subject's awareness of the animal's suffering.
The essay got some notice in certain circles, and the animal rights people still quote it all the time, but it didn't reach a broad audience. Privately, a few years later, one of Hannah Louise's vegetarian friends admitted to Dr. Arkwright that after tasting the faux gras she had an intense desire to sample the real thing, which, she reasoned, must be even better.
"And did you?" asked Dr. Arkwright.
The young woman admitted that she and her parents were at a restaurant a few months later, and, although she was a lifelong vegetarian, she had experienced a thrill when the chef, to apologize for keeping them waiting for their reserved table, had sent out a complimentary plate of hors d'eouvres that included something her mother identified as foie gras.
Dr. Arkwright asked which restaurant, and was not surprised when she named the one where his friend was the chef. He asked her if she'd tried it.
The girl lowered her eyes and nodded.
"And was it better?" asked Dr. Arkwright.
Then the girl looked up at him and met his eyes.
"Yes," she said. "Much."