Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I got all stumbling upon Elephant Words some months back, oddly enough, just about the time the daring dude behind Dead Rat's Press was gathering up a small army of ne'er-do-wells for yon Postcard Fiction Collaborative.

It's switched on, let me tell you. As is our one and fine Dilettantsia's new Candor literary magazine. They say it is a place where women can spar with text and culture. They've sold me.

But getting to the elephents and their words, I decided I'm going to embrace the burst culture a bit more fully, for a stint anyway, and elephant it up from the sidelines (and like most things, it's all Warren Ellis' fault. So once a week, from here on through the end of the year I'll be posting a story that's wandered out to the road from the dark corners of my skull and hitch-hiked its way to you here.

This week's inspiration:


He had something to say but didn’t know how to say it. He had been trying. Wandering the aisles he scanned the arrangements of the produce. Stacks of potatoes, melons set out alone. Heaps of apples on one side, and the next line over green beans. He compared the prices with the shapes of fruit. Kiwi, $.99 each. Oranges, $2.59 per bag (they were in season). The wooden racks reliably holding the cauliflower and the broccoli had the sense of a stall, a farmers roadside stand, of an outside world brought inside among the metal shelves, the plastic labels, stand-up coolers, and the cardboard displays. He got lost in the basic commerce of food, of sustenance, and when he found himself again he was still unsure. Still mute within the thing’s importance.

He read books, taking in the characters, their voices. Translating their desires into words, their words into the coded messages of their desires and passions, of their hatreds. He copied out passages that worked and passages that failed, and he wrote over then in pen where he should put his own words, stealing the cadence of the other writer out of the thought his own paces were unsuitable to the job.

Reciting out loud he addressed picture frames and mirrors, the shoulders of his shirts hanging in the closet. Notes were typed on a typewriter, outlines drawn with webbed diagrams in notebooks, but it sounded wrong. The words didn’t look right on the page, the meaning taken away with the sound of his voice.

Walks in the park found him trailing joggers growing ever distant or staring into the bottoms of the fountain.

At the movies he looked for the shoes the actors wore, the movements of their shoulders. He watched how they turned their heads when they followed their eyes or how their eyes moved after they turned their heads. How their motions conveyed the expression of their person, of their character. He listened. He mouthed along with the words once he had seen the film a time or two, mimicking the movements of their jaw in impersonation, to capture the voice, the resonance of the palette.

There was an old Hi-Fi in the closet. He tried different arrangements of the speakers. He pointed them at one another, away, inside of windows. He took out a microphone and read onto tape. Continuous sections, then fragments, then he used a dual deck to splice the material together. He felt as though each run-through the sound degraded. Each re-dub created more and more static. He put on CDs and read through the liner notes when the music played.

He tried to name it. He called it Roger. Helios. Imelicholidon. The Trigger. Cage. Belfast.

A séance told him he was the reincarnation of Robert E. Lee. He walked around his apartment with a saber strapped to his hip, and used a southern accent he imagined a genteel southern general might use. He said y’all once or twice.

One morning he made breakfast. He just made breakfast. He didn’t try to think of how the pattern of the yokes or the distance from the bacon on the plate would look and what it would mean. What the flowers he had run out that morning to buy said standing in the vase on the table. How the fullness of the orange juice glass mattered.

Last night, he had said it. Said it the right way.

He talks in his sleep.