Monday, October 28, 2013

So you see.

All right, Clowns. I'm big and ever than backer.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


We're playing sardines.

Friday, February 06, 2009

I don't want it more than I don't want it

I don't want it more than I don't want it. Or, I don't want it > I don't want it. This is justice; it just is. A stable full of cloned ponies, all named Ambivalence. The sire, desire; the dam, a dam. Ketch, yawl. Throwback.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Party game recommendation

I like to dress up the unimaginable terror of this world in a high waisted cigarette leg trouser of tobacco colored shantung, cream silk charmeuse shell tucked into the flat front under a mink-trimmed hoody of dyed-to-match cashmere. I like to call it Mippy. Why wouldn't I? Now, it's pretty. A pretty, sweet-faced coltish girl of twenty or so, a bit at loose ends, maybe, but not bad, not dangerous. Isn't it just the uncertainty of the unimaginable terror of this world that gives it the advantage over us?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Some things to sum up summer, somewhere.

Languish is not anguish of language, but should be. Shouldn't it?

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

Is that even when birds are quiet they are speaking to us in music. This is the local communications staff.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Now with sound, the music of the spheres

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Two spaniels

There were two spaniels in the hills beyond the dining room today, or at least I think they were spaniels, but they were mostly hidden behind rock.

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

Is my new favorite album. Geoff brought it. He pronounces it with two syllables, so it rhymes with see-off. As in, I can't wait to "see off" the man who claims to be a doctor. Today we decided together that all language is a dream at least, so I don't have to tell him my dreams if I promise to tell him what I am thinking. It doesn't feel like a good deal but I am worn down by all this rain.

Friday, August 31, 2007

And what about this?

I swear there are whole days they just zap away from me.

For instance, where is Thursday. Can anyone account for me on Thursday? And yet, on Friday, there don't appear to be gaps, or any missing items. For instance, we all react to a news story the same way, as if we are hearing together any tidbit for the first time.

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?"

That was what Frida asked me at breakfast today, when I started to explain how I got here. I will be frank: it made me angry, maybe in a way I haven't been angry in a long time. If there's one main problem I have with the people here, it's that when they hear a question like that, they will just nod seriously as if it contains some kind of elegant wisdom, and is not preposterous.
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

It is still this season, but everyone wants to push me into the next. The man who claims to be a doctor claims to have my best interests at heart but even an idiot knows that winter follows summer, so he must think I know less than an idiot.

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

I'd like to welcome you to the Living Anxiety Dream Museum, but there's no time for that now, is there? Because you're late, and, you see, I'm to tell you to go straight up to the room, since the testing's already begun--

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

The confusion of memory

I remember this like it was yesterday.

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

Remember how you and your bike used to love and crave, your handlebars twinkling with strips of sparkly vinyl, the smooth stretches of pavement, new and white, scored into neat squares and with perfect one-inch borders?

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.

I am working my way back around to talking about the man who claims to be a doctor, but he upsets me. This morning, for instance, when I dreamed about cannibal zombies, and how I hid during the shoot-out, and how the one cannibal zombie found me and came after me even when I'd put my fingers in his clayey eyes and twisted his clay head off his neck, his flesh impressionable and memorative like fondant frosting, the man who claims to be a doctor said to me that I am everyone in my dreams. I would have settled for being myself in the dream, because after I took the zombie's head off I ran like the wind and vaulted over a five-foot fence, like some happy parcour genius, into the wasteland behind the house. But how could I have been the lumbering zombie chasing me at the same time?

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

Many of you, like the man who claims to be a doctor, did not believe ham blue was a color. But as you can see below, it certainly is. It is that blue which, if it were pink, would be ham-colored, quite simply.

When I leave here, I know exactly what kind of business I am going to start.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Debriding doesn't have anything

Debriding doesn't have anything to do with weddings after all. Kurt is back from the emergency room, and I think that he'll have to be in bed for a few days. Samson blames the system, but I think there's got to be some accountability for Kurt, doesn't there?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

His name is Samson

His name is Samson. He has an incorruptibility. At lunch today, even though he was new, we found ourselves listening to him as he told us how our traditions would begin to be. I believe he could lead us, although for now he seems to only want to sit in the day room and do his work.

There is a German word

There is a German word for the feeling an English-speaking person has when she is in a group having a conversation at a very sophisticated or technical level and she, to cover her insecurity, tries to come up with a German word to sprinkle into her comments, but I couldn't remember it at lunch today, when everyone was arguing about Kant and Kierkegaard and Proust.

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

the evidence

I am concerned someone has tampered with my documents, and that now they are out of order. For security's sake, I have made a photographic record of the arrangement of evidentiary data and papers I've collected so far, and I'll say no more about that, other than to just let certain people know it exists. That's all. But I'll get to my reasons shortly.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Is this thing on?

Let's not get too excited, but Garland has come up with two new bumper stickers. The first is

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

There's been a little fracas over the tree pictures. They didn't know I was going out at night, they said, and then they wanted to know how I was doing it. They want me to spend some time thinking about how I've compromised the trust in the group. Maureen is letting me type this, but she needs to finish her work now. More later.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Today at breakfast Dr. Arkwright told me

Today at breakfast Dr. Arkwright told me he'd been thinking a lot about his last morning at home.
"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 ye
ars 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

Sick bodies

Today after rehearsal Maureen told me about her car. Before she had a car, she worried constantly about cancer: the idea of a silent problem that was more likely to kill her if left undetected. She said the only policy was hypervigilance, and she brought every single lump, discoloration, node, bump, variation of texture, surface and physiology to the attention of RNs, LPs, PAs and MDs. 90% of them were "fat deposits." Some were glands. Many were moles. Once a thing turned out to be a scar where she didn't remember a cut. In her wrist, she had something called a ganglion. But she kept going back.

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

Again, tree

This is the same tree, but I think it is better now. Less sick-looking, with less blue. It doesn't feel so leafed-out anymore.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Ance a comprent

Ance a comprent att a could rupt linguage un a still communicould, althing agan at slip. Swas milacre, a wand comprend ananother mare an a wand insist on brokedy grammifications. A'd lissun un a'd comprend.

Friday, December 22, 2006

I may have been disembandoned.

I have reason to believe people in France, people I thought I'd lost, have returned to me, just like it said they would on the laminated card someone sent me from Key West. I let them go, you see, even though I was sorry to, and they have returned.

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

Garland has asked me if he can write for me sometimes, when I don't want to. But I'm not sure.
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


This evening we had a program after dinner, a thing Maureen put together. She is a composer, and she specializes in coughatorio, which is like oratorio, only with a kind of learnable tonal coughing instead of singing. I am a soprano, but most people cough in a lower register, so I was with the altos. The key to the kind of coughing style Maureen showed us is to cough from your diaphragm; otherwise your throat gets sore very quickly. I was surprised by how good it sounded once we all got going. The story itself was loosely based on Handel's Belshazzar, but kind of tightened up, because it's hard to convey much story in coughatorio. I'm terribly thirsty now, but I think it would be nice to try again some time. Hopefully more people would participate, because many were coughing along from the audience.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

This is a tree

You might have to look pretty hard to see it, but I feel like that's how it always is.

The blue peeping through is sky. I told the man who claimed to be a doctor I'd seen a ham-blue sky, and he did not believe me. But if we have another one, I'll take a picture.

A. W. I. A. 23: An admission

The man who claimed to be a doctor admitted he might not have leveled with me, and there were many things I might have asked him then. While I had him in a snare of his own fashioning I might have, for instance, asked him what he'd been keeping from me or what kinds of things he'd lied about.

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

And it's cold. But Missy, who's new, said that her window opened, and I started to go to her room to see, and on the way I saw the man who claimed to be a doctor standing by a desk, whispering to a woman in green. I turned and went back the way I'd come, but he may have seen me. I did not like that.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Today at lunch I sat next to Kurt

Have we talked about Kurt. He said he's here because he's lost his sense of humor, but I am beginning to think there's more to it than that. He went to a concert the other night, just before he got here, and apparently some things happened that he didn't mean to have happened. Is it possible that a hockey puck is really solid rubber, all the way through?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Today at lunch

We talked about the storm last night. It woke up a number of people, but not me. There was a loud crack at one point, and a tree was struck by lightning, but far away from here.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

I don't know how they did it so quickly

But someone made a movie of my dream. Garland's been busy for the past few days. Now that Sergeant Tanner is gone, and Kelly is upset, he's offered to help her by sitting for the painting she started of Sergeant Tanner before he left. She was doing it from the top down, and she'd only painted as far as the hair, so you won't be able to tell, although Garland's hair is longer than Sergeant Tanner's.

A.W.I.A. 22: More Back

I had seen almost nothing of the facility by which I was being contained. I was in the hall that ended behinded me and continued ahead, and I was doing the thought experiment I was telling you about.

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

As I was saying, , or something, I don't know. I got derailed. (Take those tracks, Junie H.) But it's been long enough now that I can go on. I know some minutes are missing; some of those thoughts in the bathroom are unaccounted for, and what made me decide to leave, but I can't be worried about that now.

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.

By the way, what Sergeant Tanner had for me was not one bit good. Or maybe it was, and I just don't understand. It was a note.

It said,

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.

Tonight after dinner, we were eating our ice cream when Sergeant Tanner told us he is leaving in the morning. He says he wants me to follow him back to his area after breakfast, and that he has something for me. I'm sad he's leaving but I hope it's good. The ice cream, in case you were wondering, was Neapolitan. I don't know how that fits Dr. Arkwright's theory.

As promised...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

the man who claims to be a doctor claims that i broke faith with you.

Never mind that one of you clearly betrayed me to Junie H; he says that you were my friends, and it was wrong. But why did you do it? Best not to tell me, unless you really need me to know.

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.

I got my camera back from Marty, and these pictures were in it, too. Marty says they are of the universe starting, and I am never letting her use my camera again. She's a liar.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Marty, who's new, took this picture in the common room.

But I won't tell you what Marty says it was. It upsets me to even think about that sort of thing.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A. W. I. A. 20: The hardware

In the the bathroom, at a safe removed from the man who claimed to be a doctor, I felt a new clarity. I began to see what kind of people I was dealing with.

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...

...even though I suspect that's not his real name: on Monday, when I have recovered from the weekend treatments, I will resume my narrative where I left off.

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...

...also claims all this is necessary:

And this:

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...

...since last I had a truly new thought? The old thoughts have just been swimming, circling each other, like goldfish in a small bowl. What did happen today was that I ate lunch with someone completely new, Laura. She is different from the other people here, in some ways. She drives an H4 Syriana, which she says is a necessity for her work as a poacher. In some ways I envy her, but in others, I don't.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Also, a propos of yesterday's comments

You may rest assured all of this information has been relayed to the man who claims to be a doctor, and appropriate steps, if necessary, will be taken.

i don't usually get into it with you people...

...Because I have to be focused on my own business.

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.
--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.
3. No one, and I mean not one single person has answered to my satisfaction Patrick Rapa's question of the missing water.


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...

...I seem to have found someone, a stranger, who understands perfectly


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I have not been able to post for a while...

...but today I had lunch with Maureen, who is homesick. I asked her to describe her home to me, and she said it is filled with objects that solve problems she doesn't have: cufflink organizers; racks for neckties, decorative spoons and magazines; coupon folders. She collects containers and organizers of all kinds. She has one display case for her greeting card organizers, and another one for her knitting needle cases. She has a cabinet filled with spice racks, and in each spice rack, she keeps pillboxes and make-up bags.

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.

I know I'm in the middle of telling you about the stalls in the restroom I went to during my interview with the man who claimed to be a doctor, but there's other stuff going on.

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:

I know it's just a model, but I'm trying hard to understand why this feels so familiar.


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

I have to tell you--I can't wait any longer--what the restroom stalls were like. To understand these people, the people who came and got me, all you need to do is see these hinges in their restroom stalls. I have never seen anything like them.

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

I could not believe it when the man who claimed to be a doctor told me the door to our interview cell was unlocked. I couldn't believe it when he said I could go, unescorted, by myself, to the restroom. It was as if it were the most natural and simple thing in the world to just excuse myself and go to the restroom. I could not figure it out at all, until I pushed open the painted steel door and saw what was inside. Then I understood.

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...

...And it's not that I'm not ready to talk about the visitor, but I don't think you're ready to hear about that. This morning at breakfast we talked about dreams again. Kelly said she dreamt she had a popular doppelganger everyone was socializing with while she stayed home. There was a turtle in her dream that was so small she thought it was a mouse at first, but it grew to the size of a World War I helmet and she was afraid of it. Does anyone know what this means?

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:

I've only got a minute here before they summon me again. The man who claimed to be a doctor has done so much else since our first interview. I thought I would be telling you all of that by now, but it's hard to get a handle on. I want to finish telling you about our first interview, but I'll have to tell you about the bathroom first. And maybe tomorrow, or the next day, I will tell you what Joseph said.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

I have to stop here and say something

Kelly was working as an epidemiologist before she came here; her specialty was the transmission of ideology. She was going to tell me more about it, but Garland got upset. Now we all just want to rest a little, and there won't be more time for a couple of days.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

A. W. I. A. 17: The sort of game it was

I'd asked the man who claimed to be a doctor what game we were playing, and he asked me what made me think it was a game.

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

The man who claimed to be a doctor was making notes. He wrote down 'tiger lilies' after I mentioned them, but claimed he only wrote that because he was starting a garden.

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

All right, now back to business. I was starting to describe the tiger lilies I saw on my walk that morning, but I sensed that if I told the man who claimed to be a doctor that they looked to me like mourners at a funeral, he would somehow use that to prove certain things about me, which, as I said, I've already demonstrated to be untrue.

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 did?"


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?"

"Tiger lilies."


"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

The man who claimed to be a doctor had ceded immediately to my demand that we change the subject. I was back in control, and felt that nothing was lost by giving him something in return: he wanted to know about my walk that morning, and so I would tell him.

"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

I'd told the man who claimed to be a doctor that I didn't want to talk about telephone wires anymore. He could pretend not to understand or act normal, it was up to him, but I would not play along.

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 what?"

"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.

I was telling the man who claimed to be a doctor about my walk. I was trying to make a little observation about telephone wires--that they never look the way you picture them, and they're actually a mess--and move on, but this brought him up short.

"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."

"Why sick?"

"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

Shortly after I mistook another set of footfalls for his, the man who claimed to be a doctor returned, bearing a cup of liquid he claimed was coffee.

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?

The man who was supposed to be a doctor may have been right after all. This is beginning to look like a broken story. Still, I mean to tell it.

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

All right, I want to wind this up, because there's still so much else to say. But the end of Minnie's story went like this:

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 go suddenly yesterday because someone came to get me. This is what it's like to be a pilgrim in the age of convenience: the saints come to you.

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

I started to tell you about Minnie already, but today Kelly, who wasn't there the first time, asked Minnie to tell the story again. This is what she said:
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...

...I sat with another new person, Kelly. She said that she came here from an apartment complex. Her next door neighbor was a nice-looking young man she sometimes thought she might get to know better, but the two of them could never seem to make eye contact in the hall. Even when they rode the elevator together, she said, they barely looked at each other and they never spoke.

"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.


Minnie is beginning to tell us her story.

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

He was a man of average height, neither stocky nor scrawny. He wore no jewelry, that I could see. He was middle-aged.

"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

The man who was supposed to be a doctor did not look satisfied with my answer. In a game in which he appeared to hold every single card, this was the closest I might expect to come to winning a trick. As such, I had every right to regard it as a victory, and was not sure why it didn't feel that way.

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

So far, in our interview, the man who was supposed to be a doctor had caught me in an elegant trap, but he was perhaps too polite, or too canny, to acknowledge this victory.

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."

I nodded.

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."

I nodded.

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

A whole new set of things has been happening in my interviews with the man who is supposed to be a doctor, but I am not ready to discuss those yet. Suffice it to say certain challenges have been posed, and they'll be dispatched, and I'll discuss all of it in time.

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...

...A young man named Garland. He's in his early thirties, and has worked for several years as an aphorist. He has steady work for clothing and laminated wallet cards, but he's made most of his money in licensing deals. For instance, his "The apprentice is as only as good as his master," was the inspiration for the violent graduate student group "The Ex-Apprentices" in the book Roderick's Only Bear (and the film adaptation of the same name).

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

Now that the man who was supposed to be a doctor was ready to communicate with me, I was not sure I was ready to hear what he had to say. I may have even insulted him, when he told me that he listened to stories for a living, by telling him that it didn't sound to me like a grown-up occupation.

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

If you know what happened so far, you know that when the man who was supposed to be a doctor told me, "I said, people who tell stories with missing parts, in my experiences, usually constitute the missing parts themselves," you know he was lying.

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

Well, you know how this all started, and what happened next. When I laughed and then told the man who was supposed to be a doctor that I wasn't laughing at anything, he sighed as if my answer made him tired. "All right. What did you mean when you said I was speaking to you in riddles?"

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.

"In ciphers."

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

As I was saying, the man who claimed to be a doctor but was not like any doctor I had ever seen said, "But the problem is you are telling me a broken story. Your story does not make sense."

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.

I wasn't doing anything when they came to get me. I was in my home, minding my own business, quiet, non-intrusive, all the things they say they like someone to be, and they came, and took me away, and brought me here.

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

By now the story is so widely known that it hardly bears repeating, but the particulars I heard at lunch today from the man himself might shed some light on the general course of events.

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."

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