A Random Image

Jett Superior laid this on you on || May 22, 2003 || 11:32 pm

They never did see this part of him, and he could not decide whether or not he found a measure of comfort in that. They did not know this name, or the workings of this face, or the tousle of this hair. They did not know that he had a mushroom-and-hearts-of-palm pizza without fail every Friday night. That he liked the feel of the clay of this place slip firmly beneath his bare feet the day after a good rain.

For knowing so much, really, they knew so very little. He didn’t feel the anguish that one particular realization might drop onto others; he regarded it as something else to slow-sweep with an apathetic eye. He felt, really, like this was the only one that counted, the only one that gave a true measure of the facts.

He gave up dressing for success long ago: The standard uniform was an oversized fatigue jacket, jeans and whatever shirt fell under his hand when he shrugged on his clothing at wildly varying times of the day. The shoes never quite suited the outfit, because he could never bear to wear a pair more than ten or twelve days before purchasing new ones. Some days there were running shoes, sometimes there were heavy boots and there had even been a pair of wingtips, black and white to be exact. But always new-looking, always drawing the eye downward. Why this was he could not begin to tell you, though it’s hard to determine whether or not this is because he had troubling remembering or he had trouble telling.

He used to talk to people, really talked to them, but more importantly, he had mastered listening, the magic skill of being right there in the moment when someone was speaking and not off making a mental list of things on his plate today, laundry to be done and things to be written and ‘what-am-I-gonna-eat-for-dinner’. They started calling him a philosopher, at first whispering it behind their hands to one another and then quite boldly stating it to him directly, and that is what stemmed the flow of words, what caused them to be few and far between, succinctly and quietly delivered.

Not, as you might think, from humility, but from fear. A simple, meaty fear. It didn’t overwhelm and consume him, as the big fears are wont to do; it sat there in his exact middle cold and thick, juicy and still. This made it all the more imposing.

It did not panic him, but it kept him operational.

Things like ‘More than the sum of my parts.’ and ‘Survival of the fittest.’ made him chuckle low and slow to himself. Pat is good; patronizing is shameful. He lived his life by this and other small nuggets: Eat, shit, fuck, sleep, smile. Once around, then around again. Sometimes he would only accomplish one of those a day, but he never viewed those days as failures, only aberrations from the time before. So then, every day was an aberration, which could never be confused with ‘the norm’. Every man should have it so lucky.

‘CHAINED TO NONSENSE SENSIBILITY’ was a phrase that floated down to him one day, hovering some two feet in front of him, a foot up, written in crumbling hard block letters. They were yellow, those letters, and he embraced them as a gift. Maybe that’s why they stayed, anchored and floating in front of him, for so long.

He used to date a lanky backup singer named Michelle. She was from the midwest, impossibly beautiful, but yet he knew her to be real because he took meal after meal with her, made love to her countless times, woke up smelling her hair and warm skin morning after morning. She ended up leaving, of course; the shoe thing really, really unnerved her. She found it most troubling when the electricity, a one-hundred and fifty dollar expense, was cut off in favor of one-hundred and eighty dollars’ worth of new shoes.

(The clerks knew. They knew that when he tried a pair on, that was not the pair that he would be buying. He would be buying the ones that he would send them to the stockroom to retrieve, always in the exact same size, style and color. The ones that had not graced the feet of any others. And he tipped them for their efforts in this arena.)

He rarely thought of Michelle since the words appeared. The words had supplanted almost everything else. Only the best of gifts can do that.

He had taken to climbing, relishing the broad faces of rock that the earth had pouted through its crust a whenever ago. He would climb until the only ropes he was aware of were the ones screaming out in his body, ‘Stop now, stopnowstopnow, stop. NOW.’ and his knuckles and knees were stubbly gristle. When he finally ascended to a stopping point that seemed right, he stretched out into a dot on the horizon and took the breaths into himself like mother’s milk, needed and savored.

There were times when he’d roll back down. There were times he slept, quick to fall deeply away from consciousness, but the words never took their leave of him..

He just didn’t mind. They kept the fear from seeping out of his center and far into his dreams. As it was, the fear only decorated the edges, looking remarkably like a gilt frame, one so heavy that if it fell it would break everything for miles.

The frame of fear, the words floating solidly and crumbling in the center of it, the elaborate mindscape a backdrop. He could always separate the dreams from reality, because his dreams were the only time he could see the fear. And the shoes never looked new enough.

But the words, in waking or dreaming….the words never left him.

11 worked it out »

  1. RON 5.23.2003

    It remains a mystery to me what “words” your protagonist is incapable of dismissing as harmless slings and arrows, as well as he accomplishes with the opinions held by the inhabitants of his sphere, that he considers simply incomplete in content and irrelevant in purpose and therefore overrules these opinions as being too trival to fuck up his day, since, even with his repugnance of a schedule, his ultra-violet hours calls for buying shoes and climbing mountains before the sun sets east of Eden, and in the ensuing darkness, the boogie-man brings back “words(?)..words(?)..words(?)..(still a riddle to me), and dreams bring back memories of Michelle leaving him because he spent money on shoes instead of buying her an electric prod even though Michelle was a “real” people and in every other facet of her being preferred real over artificial stimulation, the protagonist practicing every twelveth day not to forget “her name was Michelle” in case they ever met again, and as a world class philosopher, talks to his mushroom/hearts-of-palm pizza on Friday nights.

  2. John 5.23.2003

    You got the character sketch thing down pat.

    I’m trying to work my way back into short fiction, but it always seems to grow into unwieldy mega-books in my head and I balk at starting to write anything even though I’ve got oodles plotted out in my head. There’s the excuse for procrastination cloaked in the theory that I’d grow into the story someday. The latter used to sound so reasonable, but I can’t ignore the former for much longer.

    But the reason I’m writing about it, is that I find when I read other people’s writing as it appears on the web in these personal portals it inspires me to join in. Matt’s responsible for getting me to put down a story several times already. And I’m realizing that I need to avoid those places that inspire to me to write nasty screeds. It becomes this sick ego-echo chamber and I just don’t want to play that anymore. Man I gotta adjust my links accordingly.

    (on review)


    Sometimes it’s better to fill up the missing bits as you see fit or just wait for part deuce or just say, “that unnamed fellow is a right weird one.” He reminds me of me sans the shoes and the rock climbing and the philosophical phrase focusing, at least to that degree. More precisely, I like to focus on what I know and like rather than all the holes the will certainly appear if you take a small bit of text and breathe a character into it.

    I like the part about his reaction when people started calling him “philosopher.” It hits on one thread of thoughts that has been winnowing it’s way through me, how naming something or giving someone a label inevitably changes it. It’s an ancient semantic sigil of control and yet the subject can resist. –but I’m going too cut the long babble. See Jett, it’s that train of ideas, you tap the root of one and find a whole system that’s been buried. And that’s why I dilly-dally ’round dese parts. So forgive my meandering mental mumbling, for I’m loath to truncate.

  3. Jett 5.23.2003

    Ron, puddy, I have both failed and succeeded with this snippet. I have suceeded in that you have filled in things that I never wrote (twelfth day, practicing not to forget her name, the sun setting, dreaming of Michelle, talking to his pizza?< --sorry, that last one throws me a bit, as I didn't think I was characterizing the protagonist as a loon, only awkward and a little oddish) nor even inferred, but there are so fucking many holes in this piece that it is very much up to the reader's imagination to flesh it out.

    That’s part of the fun of fiction, m’dear, only you sound like you’re not enjoying it so much.

    I’ve failed in that I haven’t communicated to you (that, or you failed to read with a degree of care or comprehension, only you know that) that the words in question –written right there in all caps– were not torturous slings and arrows, but rather companions, some sort of strange comfort. He, in fact, DOES throw off the words of others (the ‘pat philosophies’ paragraph) without much effort, because he is different from them and knows it. If, in fact, he is different, then how well could their belief systems serve him?

    There you go.

    John-baby, you give me way too much credit. I think that I will henceforward say to people, “BOY, I was DRAWNK when I wrote THAT.” That way, if it’s replete with stinkiosity, I can blame the likker, and if it’s actually kinda goodish, I can say, “Now SEE, if I can do that when I’m DRAWNK, imagine the literary manna that would fall from my lips and fingertips were I only sober when I write!”

    And I’m the complete antithesis of the writing you. I come up with something I regard as meaty, and it runs out of steam before I can ‘get it there’. I’ve often said that I maybe could write one fuck of a book if I could only be given a beginning and end. Hell, I have a whole NOTEBOOK chock-FULL of riotously funny, scalding and jaw-dropping lines that are just WAITING to be assigned to various characters.

    Fucking. Ay. Man. Impotent eedle me.

    I love Rossi’s big ole brain and his hearty command of the language, the way that he makes it his complete bitch and doesn’t even break a fucking sweat (MATTY! I HATE YOU, YOU NIMBLE-WORDED FUCK!)….I feel so goddamn *dumb* in his presence, and that’s not entirely a bad thing. He’s one of those people that either

    a) dwarves people completely from an intellectual standpoint, causing them to cower and shy away or

    b) instills in others admiration for him and the desire to step up and try to level the playing field by learning all they can from him.

    You know, kinda like you. (Although nobody can be Rossi. We can only be cheap imitations. Me, I’m the dayglo facsimile. You ever see that movie ‘Multiplicity’? I’m the copy of the copy.)

    He dances divinely, but his kidneys are gawna rot from all that Co-Cola.

    And you, you give yourself too little credick.

  4. John 5.23.2003

    Too much credit? Hmm, that’s interesting, because that’s what Matt told me when I threw compliments his way. I might engage in a little hyperbole, but I try and leave out the stems & seeds. I mean, I don’t take compliments well, I get quiet and stare at the ceiling or something. Because of that I’ve never really been one to give compliments ever. So when I do I at least try and be specific in what I like and I like to point out when other people’s writing acts as a catalyst to my own creativity.

    A writing jam session is a damn fun thing. I haven’t done it in ages. I could have sworn it’s been done before, maybe not as a totally open weblog, but I think it was called storyfuck or something. It was close to the idea. There was also a book that came out a while ago where 12 Irish writers trade off one story and I haven’t read it, but it does sound like a blast.

    Anyway, it would be a good excuse for me to open up a blogger type place for jam writing sessions. Wow, I’m sooo rambling now. Das beer! But I do want to say that Matt helped push me into writing how I wanted to write and to not try and write like anyone else. I think when he pointed out Kafka is when it became most clear to me. And “stinkiosity” is just a place to start. It’s a bookmark to that big rewrite that polishes the stank away.

  5. RON 5.24.2003

    Kiss your sweet S with a capital K, Jett Superior, for I read and re-read and enjoy your stories immensely, so fuck off, and let me keep being the world’s most fair and brilliant critic, so the society of writers of blog fiction, I may keep from wondering ash tray:

    I suspect the main character is fashioned after someone you knew or still know..

    If your protagonist becomes biographical in nature, readers will mistake this as a symptom that the writer has questionable talent, even though, it was probably just an inappropriate withdrawal from your memory data bank, known as plagiarizing. Yes, in fiction writing, you can self-plagiarize. Real life people have no place in “real fiction.” Mixing and matching the character traits of the various personalities that inhabit your brain cells, is a tried and true recipe for Frankenstein-ism and only appropriate for amateur writers, merchanising a character to give tribute to an acquaintance. A fictitious character must be just that, fictitious. With no counterpart in the real world. More importantly, a fictitious protagonist must never be reconstitued from the ingredients in your past live(s). Otherwise, you will be caught in the trap of contriving fiction. That’s why the improbable feats of characters like the Terminator are believable to the extent that the Terminator is not human but an incarnation of pure fantasy and where reality checks are as mundane, as writing about what you ate, this morning, for breakfast. Of course, the Terminator movie uses its share of futuristic gadgets, but these devices are more for cinematic special effects and not a screen writer’s equivalent of substance abuse. Your ideal protagonist can see through the illusions that inflict ordinary you’s and me’s, after all your protagonist is just, ink on paper, and on only a diet of alphabet soup, intends to live throughout the next century in reprints and cults, thereof must establish his immortality with self-discoveries and dillemas which are yet to exist, until you define them, that is, after your nail-polished fingertips presses the final comma and period. Upon attaining a pure fictional protagonist (100 parts fiction, 0 parts real life), you tap onto an inexhaustible supply of story plots and human incidents, for there is no ”real” person residing in your memory, from whom you must seek the counsel of. Without the barrier that your own framework of reality imposes, you have, instead, the infinite borders of imagination and at which point, you can not blink, or otherwise everthing might vanish.

  6. Jett 5.24.2003

    My GOD, Ron, that first paragraph in the last comment made me laugh so hard that I cried.

    I don’t know who you are or how long you’ve been ’round these parts, but I dare say, I do like you (you’re a mighty wordy buck, but then so am I, so I can’t hit you with a poker for that’n) and I hope you keep coming over to chat.

    I can’t speak for any other ‘writers’ out there, but most any character that sallies forth is a mishmosh of traits I’ve picked up on from others, be it my saintly grandmother or some yutz at the gas station with an eye-catching something. Maybe, as you say, a character has to be truly fictional; maybe that’s the roadblock for me and why I’ve not come up with anything truly wonderful and/or memorable.

    Your input is always appreciated…thanks for giving it. And my nails are horribly bitten, negating the need for polish. The only things well-manicured are my toes, and I’ve not yet learned to type with those.

    John: I’ve just really glommed on to the ‘loathe to truncate’ line. We should form the Loathe To Truncate Society. Any idears on a secret handshake?

    And you’re right; it was/is storyfuck. I’ve not visited the site in a long time, though it’s on my links list. I’m not aware of them being defunct.

  7. John 5.24.2003


    That’s some interesting advice, but writing advice must always be “take it or leave it.” Like say…wishing for more paragraphs. White space (even if it’s purple) is our friend.

    I like Frankenstein and the Terminator too. Heck, They should make a Frankenstein vs. Terminator movie. That would certainly beat the hokey crap out of that Jason vs. Freddy movie that Hollywood is about to defecate on the world. I mean, isn’t the whole point that these two characters CAN’T DIE? How the hell are we going to determine a winner? Is it going to be a killer contest? Is there going to be a score on the screen and will old ladies in wheelchairs be worth more points than lawyers? And if Jason doesn’t say a word, does it mean we gotta sit through 90 minutes of Freddy spewing one-liners? Isn’t it just a big “Hello World! Us studio honchos had our brains sucked out after one too many blowjobs and we forgot that you really want to see an Aliens vs. Predator movie. Sorrreeei!”

    I do have another point or A point.

    Putting chains on your writing is fine, if that’s what you think will make it better. However, there are no solid rules. If the line between a pro and an amachurner is so fragile, then I say it’s a useless dis-stink-tion. Does Stephen King’s advice about avoiding adverbs mean you shouldn’t use them yourself? If you want to write like the King, then maybe it does. And if you measure things only by bank accounts, maybe it is “good to be the King.”

    But, you almost seem to care about this story more than the author. I haven’t seen someone write the word “protagonist” since my HS creative writing class or I’ve at least blocked out the other times. You have given me some things to chew on. And it’s not alphabet soup, it’s pizza with all the toppings except fish.


    The Loathe To Truncate Society can’t have a handshake because we’d spend the whole time going through its motions and never actually get to the meeting part.

  8. liz 5.24.2003

    everyone’s been so … polite. me, i have this question, i was wondering if i missed the part that said “hi, i need literary criticism, please be thorough”. i just think it’s such bad form to go show up at a personal website & set up shop as a reviewer. but then again i have a bit of a headache & am a little fussy, i could be wrong.

  9. RON 5.25.2003


    Poor powder puff, that you must be, for me clairvoyance runs rampant, here. It is purely by me mission in life that i set forth giving testimony to the imperfections in this world, and only its shear volume keeps me from not attending to every earthly occurence, unregrettably so. Have you no compunction to watch Buffy every so often? Of that, then, we may have something in common. I lack a substantial amount of aptitude for inaction, such that, i will always stop and help you fix your flat tire, should i pass you on a freeway and will lend you my only umbrella if we are caught together in the same storm if you promise to pucker up, and forsake eating your daily ration of junk food for thought. I take solace in All Blogged Up and.. where its art of musing has a gravitational pull on my synapses. If you prefer, read, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, which covers the vices of criticism in a resort town setting. Waiting for Godot, about two intellectuals sitting on a park bench, debating synergy, and waiting for a tardy Godot. Everything is normal until one reveals to the other that Godot can not make it today, because Godot is a figment of his imagination. There upon, the prankster is strangled and his assailant, institutionalized, and upon his release, crusades for, and is heralded as the founder of a program for a national ID card. If you see any resemblance, Lizzie, may we find ourselves on the same blogger’s bench, one bright, sparkle and glitter day.

  10. John 5.26.2003

    That made me *gigglesnort*, which is painful while drinking carbonated beverages, but I’m only on my 3rd cuppa joe. Ron, there is nothing perfect in this world. It is a direction not a destination. It is like trying to exceed the speed of light. The weight of it shall be your undoing. I won’t suggest you steer clear from you quixotic course. We should all have at least one such cause to keep us busy in the inbetweener times.

    Sammy B yes, gotsta give the undecipherable playwright his due. It opens up a sky of interpretation. Godot has shown his face in some mock versions as surely as folks have set the ham factor to 12 in their renditions of Wagner’s works.

    Well, in the immortal words of Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.” (and I can do a fair impression too).

  11. RON 5.27.2003

    there is nothing perfect in this world. It is a direction not a destination. It is like trying to exceed the speed of light. The weight of it shall be your undoing. I won’t suggest you steer clear from you quixotic course. We should all have at least one such cause to keep us busy in the inbetweener


    Membership in my club is rather exclusive and we are unable, by charter, to allow pagans to even get in close proximity of our encampment. I, too, once wore my sunglasses at night with unmatching socks, hidden by me pair of sneakers. But I am far from that now since me memory is not what it use to be–all me files on the computer was erased without proper ceremony, last night. However, your suggestion that I disown myself, is well taken.

    You are a guilding light and one day, let me chip in, a little, for the batteries.


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