Tuesday, March 13, 2007

the stone (tove jansson)

It was lying between the coal dump and the goods wagons under some bits of wood and it was a miracle that no one had found it before me. The whole of one side shone with silver and if you rubbed away the coal dust you could see that the silver was there inside the stone too. It was a huge stone of nothing but silver, and no one had found it.
I didn't dare to hide it; somebody might see it and take it while I ran home. It had to be rolled away. If anyone came and tried to stop me I would sit down on the stone and yell my head off. I could bite them as they tried to lift it. I could do just about anything.
And so I began to roll it. It was very slow work. The stone just lay on its back quite still, and when I got to turn over it just lay on its tummy and rocked to and fro. The silver came of in thin flakes that stuck to the ground and broke into small pieces when I tried to pick them up.
I got down on my knees to roll it, which was much better. But the stone only moved half a turn at a time and it was terribly slow work. No one took any notice of me as long as I was rolling down in the harbour Then I managed to get the stone onto a pavement and things became more difficult. People stopped and tapped on the pavement with their umbrellas and said all sorts of things. I said nothing and just looked at their shoes. I pulled my woolly hat down over my eyes and just went on rolling and rolling and rolling and then the stone had to cross the road. By then I had been rolling it for hours and I hadn't looked up once and hadn't listened to anything anyone said to me. I just gazed at the silver underneath all the coal dust and other dirt and made a tiny little room for myself where nothing existed except the stone and me. But now it had to cross the road.
One car after another went past and sometimes a tram, and the longer I waited, the more difficult it was to roll the stone out into the road.
In the end I began to feel weak at the knees and then I knew that soon it would be too late, in a few seconds it would be too late, so I let it fall into the gutter and began rolling very quickly and without looking up. I kept my nose just above the top of the stone so that the room I had hidden us in would be as tiny as possible and I hear very clearly how all the cars stopped and were angry, but I drew a line between them and me and just went on rolling and rolling. You can close your mind to things if something is important enough. It works very well. You make yourself very small, shut your eyes tight and say a big word over and over again until you're save.
When I got to the tram-lines I felt tired, so I lay across the stone and held it tight. But the tram just rang and rang its bell so I had to start rolling again, but now I wasn't scared any longer, just angry and that felt much better. Anyway, the stone and I had such a tiny room for ourselves that it didn't matter a bit who shouted at us or what they shouted. We felt terribly strong. We had no trouble in getting onto the pavement again and we continued up the slope to Wharf Road, leaving behind us a narrow trail of silver. From time to time we stopped to rest together and then we went on again.
We came to the entrance of our house and got the door open. But then there were the stairs. You could manage by resting on your knees and taking a firm grip with both hands and waiting till you got your balance. Then you tightened your stomach and held your breath and pressed your wrists against your knees. Then quickly up and over the edge and you let your stomach go again and listened and waited, but the staircase was quite empty. And then the same thing all over again.
When the stairs narrowed and turned a corner, we had to move over to the wall side. We went on climbing slowly but no one came. Then I lay on top of the stone again and got my breath and looked at the silver, silver worth millions, and only four floors more and we would be there.
It happened when we got to the fourth floor. My hand slipped inside my mittens, I fell flat on my face and lay quite still and listened to the terrible noise of the stone falling. The noise got louder and louder, a noise like 'Crash, Crunch, Crack' all rolled into one, until the stone hit the Nieminens' door with a dull thud like doomsday.
It was the end of the world, and I covered my eyes with my mittens. Nothing happened. The echoes resounded up and down the stairs but nothing happened. No angry people opened their doors. Perhaps they we3re lying in wait inside.
I crept down on my hands and knees. Every step had a little semicircle bitten out of it. Further down they became big semicircles and the pieces lay everywhere and stared back at me. I rolled the stone away from the Nieminiens' door and started all over again. We climbed up steadily and without looking at the chipped steps. We got past the place where things had gone wrong and took a rest in front of the balcony door. It's a dark-brown door and has tiny square panes of glass.
Then I heard the outside door downstairs open and shut, and somebody coming up the stairs. he climbed up and up with very slow steps. I crept forward to the banisters and looked down. I could see right to the bottom, a long narrow rectangle closed in by the banisters all the way down, and up the banisters came a great big hand, round and round and nearer and nearer. There was a mark in the middle of it, so I knew it was the tattooed hand of the caretaker, who was probably on his way up to the attic.
I opened the door to the balcony as quietly as I could and began to roll the stone over the threshold. The threshold was high. I rolled without thinking. I was very scared and couldn't get a good grasp and the stone rolled into the chink of the door and got wedged there. There were some double doors with coiled iron springs at the top, which the caretaker had put there because women always forgot to shut the doors after them. I heard the springs contract and they sang softly to themselves as they squeezed me and the stone together between the doors and I put my legs together and took tight hold of the stone and tried to roll it but the space got narrower and narrower and I knew that the caretaker's hand was sliding up the banisters all the time.
I saw the silver of the stone quite close to my face and I gripped it and pushed and kicked with my legs and all of a sudden it tipped over and rolled several times and under the iron railing and into the air and disappeared.
Then I could see nothing but bits of fluff, light and airy as down, with small threads of colour here and there. I lay flat on my tummy and the door pinched my neck and everything was quiet until the stone reached the yard below. And there it exploded like a meteor; it covered the dustbins and the washing and all the steps and windows with silver! It made the whole of 4 Wharf Road look as if it was silver-plated and all the women ran to their windows thinking that war had broken out or doomsday had come! Every door opened and everybody ran up and down the stairs with the caretaker leading and saw how a wild animal had bitten bits out of every step and how a meteor had fallen out of a clear-blue sky.
But I lay squeezed in between the doors and said nothing. I didn't say anything afterwards, either. I never told anyone how close we had come to being rich.

Monday, March 12, 2007

extremely loud and incredibly close (jonathan safran foer)

To my unborn child: I haven't always been silent, I used to talk and talk and talk and talk, I couldn't keep my mouth shut, the silence overtook me like a cancer, it was one of my first meals in America, I tried to tell the waiter, "The way you just handed me that knife, that reminds me of -" but I couldn't finish the sentence, her name wouldn't come, I tried again, it wouldn't come, she was locked inside me, how strange, I thought, how frustrating, how pathetic, how sad, I took a pen from my pocket and wrote "Anna" on my napkin, it happened again only two days later, and then again the following day, she was the only thing I wanted to talk about, it kept happening, when I didn't have a pen, I'd write Anna in the air - backward and right to left - so that the person I was speaking with could see, and when I was on the phone I'd dial the numbers -2, 6, 6, 2 - so that the person could hear what I couldn't, myself, say. "And" was the next word I lost, probably because it was so close to her name, what a simple word to say, what a profound word to lose, I had to say "ampersand," which sounded ridiculous, but there it is, "I'd like a coffee ampersand something sweet," nobody would choose to be like that. "Want" was a word I lost early on, which is not to say that I stopped wanting things -I wanted things more - I just stopped being able to express the want, so instead I said "desire", "I desire two rolls," I would tell the baker, but that wasn't quite right, the meaning of my thoughts started to float away from me, like leaves that fall from a tree into a river, I was the tree, the world was the river. I lost "come" one afternoon with the dogs in the park, I lost "fine" as the barber turned me towards the mirror, I lost "shame" - the verb and the noun in the same moment, it was a shame. I lost "carry", I lost the things I carried - "daybook," "pencil," "pocket change," "wallet" - I even lost "loss." After a time, I had only a handful of words left, if someone did something nice for me, I would tell him, "The thing that comes before 'you're welcome,'" if I was hungry, I'd point at my stomach and say, "I am the opposite of full," I'd lost "yes," but I still had "no," so if someone asked me, "Are you Thomas?" I would answer, "Not no," but then I lost "no," I went to a tattoo parlor and had YES written onto the palm of my left hand, and NO onto my right palm, what can I say, it hasn't made life wonderful, it's made life possible, when I rub my hands against each other in the middle of winter I am warming myself with the friction of YES and NO, when I clap my hands I am showing my appreciation through the uniting and parting of YES and NO, I signify "book" by peeling open my clapped hands, every book, for me, is the balance of YES and NO, even this one, my last one, especially this one. Does it break my heart, of course, every moment of every day, into more and more pieces than my heart was made of, I never thought of myself as quiet, much less silent. I never thought about things at all, everything changed, the distance that wedged itself between me and my happiness wasn't the world, it wasn't the bombs and burning buildings, it was me, my thinking, the cancer of never letting go, is ignorance bliss, I don't know, but it's so painful to think, and tell me, what did thinking ever do for me, to what great place did thinking ever bring me? I think and think and think, I've thought myself out of happiness one million times, but never once into it. "I" was the last word I was able to speak out aloud, which is a terrible thing, but there it is, I would walk round the neighbourhood saying "I I I I." "You want a cup of coffee, Thomas?" "I." "And maybe something sweet?" "I." "How's about this weather?" "I." "You look upset. Is anything wrong?" I wanted to say, "Of course," I wanted to ask, "Is anything right?" I wanted to pull the thread, unravel the scarf of my silence and start again from the beginning, but instead I said, "I." I know I'm not alone in this disease, you hear the old people in the street and some of them are moaning, "Ay yay yay," but some of them are clinging to their last word, "I," they're saying, because they're desperate, it's not a complaint it's a prayer, and then I lost "I" and my silence was complete.

last words (joolz denby)

If I should die, think only this of me......

I didn't snuff it from an infected midge bite in some corner of a foreign field, but from having my lights punctured by a starving knifeman in Rio who spilt my claret for the sake of a pearlised silver plastic mugger trap wallet and a pair of gold sleepers from Ratners. Dead, dead, and only the cat ever called me Mother.
As my lily-draped catafalque sways down Leeds Road bearing its tragic burden, the air rent by the howling cries of the grieving throng, dwell momentarily on my sterling qualities: those shining attributes that stood me head and shoulders (literally) above the heaving, sweating melee of the common herd, that pustulant excrescence that we laughingly dub 'humanity'.... think of my all-encompassing guilt, my savage megalomania, the ready tears, the readier sarcasm, that whip-like tongue ever happy to lash the unfortunate and insufferable fool and last, but by no means least, the temper... ah! Remember its super nova flare, a bright flash searing all in its path then burning out in a millisecond leaving only a crumpled me sobbing over the ashy remains.
Yes, think of me, oh horseman riding by; rein up your malevolent, wall-eyed lump of equine devilmeat and cogitate upon this scarlet haired witch queen, this tattooed termagant, this five-year-old teddy bear with an attitude problem....
Remember me, the monster of my own creation, the phantom at the feast; the grey-eyed looker-on, soft, warm, cuddly with muscle and woman fat, fragrant with fresh sweat and expensive soap, snotty, tired and spotty, the farting, coughing hag grasping at the fleeing years with iron claws, no better and no worse than the worst and the best.
I had beautiful hands and feet. I breathed the air that you breathe now, you are breathing my last exhaled breath; I will never die because I will never be forgotten entirely.
I loved you with all the fierce and savage love of the unwanted child. I loved you as I stared in your lighted windows from the cold streets. I loved you and wrote about you with some skill and a great deal of passion. I drew your faces, wizened, beautiful, taut-skinned or fleshy. I died as you will, a testament to mortality..... and for the sake of my ghost, don't bury me in Bradford....

Sunday, May 21, 2006

ella (ella kaye)

I work at Hobbs. I love it. I took the job there because I like the atmosphere. Ella Fitzgerald occupies at least a third of the play list. Jazz. I'll never tire of it. And I like the people. I like the other staff and I like the customers. They're mostly businesswomen, 25-45. They can afford to look good. My boss says the cream trousers appeal to people who have Hobbs taste/no taste. Most of the stuff's all right though, elegant. Especially the suits. Sophia jacket and 50s flap pocket trousers, silk linen, light khaki, priced... not worth thinking about.

Sometimes we get customers who stick in my mind for months. There was the Irish woman who kept telling me I was a 'good girl'. The accent sounds Welsh when I do it. And the World's Easiest Customer, who spent £700 in two minutes (two cashmere blend coats, if you're interested). And the woman who would have been the World's Worst Customer if she hadn't been so beautiful. I can understand why somebody might need to try on trousers in two sizes, but three! And in both regular and long. How could she possibly have thought she needed long? She was about five feet two. She made a point about this when trying on a pair of flat shoes.
"Do I look small in these?"
Of course you look small, you're five foot two.
"Small but perfectly formed." I didn't actually say that. I wish I had.

And then there was the woman who was a better-looking version of Andie MacDowell ("Not possible," said my dad.) I wouldn't say I'm a fan of Andie MacDowell, but this woman was sublime. I went to talk to her; to give her 'the personal shopping experience'. She picked out a short bias dress, soft linen, navy, priced... and went to try it on. A few minutes later she came out of the changing room, twirled and leant against the doorframe.
"Well, what do you think?"
"I think you are the most beautiful woman I've ever seen, and that dress, well, words escape me."

I didn't actually say that. What I really said was, "Yes." Of everything I could have said, I chose yes. It wasn't even an answer to her question.
"All right, I'll take it." She knew she looked good.

At that moment Ella Fitzgerald came on singing 'I Get A Kick Out Of You'. You may see that as significant, but since approximately 100% of the songs she sings are on that kind of theme, I refuse to note it as interesting.

"Ah, Ella Fitzgerald," she said. "The best."
"I couldn't agree more. I was named after her."
"You're an Ella?"
"I'm an Ella as well."
"It's a gorgeous name. I've never met another Ella. I've heard of a couple of younger Ellas, but never an older one, except Ella Fitzgerald, of course. I'm a huge fan. That's why I wanted to work here, they play a disproportionate amount of her music."
"I've noticed. I was named after her as well."
We had a bond.
"Yes. So tell me, Ella," she paused and savoured the strange sensation of calling somebody else by her own name. "Do you enjoy working here?"
"When I get customers who are as beautiful as you, I do. What are you doing at six o'clock today?" is what I didn't say, settling once again for "Yes." She nodded and that was the end of our conversation. She motioned me towards the till.

As she was about to leave I told her, "A recent survey showed that 80% of the women who shop in Hobbs return. Will you?"
"Yes," she said. And then she left.

Monday, January 16, 2006

i know this much is true (wally lamb)

On the afternoon of October 12, 1990, my twin brother Thomas entered the Three Rivers, Connecticut Public Library, retreated to one of the rear study carrels, and prayed to God the sacrifice he was about to commit would be deemed acceptable. Mrs. Theresa Fenneck, the children’s librarian, was officially in charge that day because the head librarian was at an all-day meeting in Hartford. She approached my brother and told him he’d have to keep his voice down or else leave the library. She could hear him all the way up at the front desk. There were other patrons to consider. If he wanted to pray, she told him, he should go to a church, not the library.

Thomas and I had spent several hours together the day before. Our Sunday afternoon ritual dictated that I sign him out of the state hospital’s Settle Building, treat him to lunch, visit our stepfather or take him for a drive, and then return him to the hospital before suppertime. At a back booth in Friendly’s, I’d sat across from my brother, breathing in his secondary smoke and leafing for the umpteenth time through his scrapbook of clippings on the Persian Gulf crisis. He’d been collecting them since August as evidence that Armageddon was at hand - that the final battle between good and evil was about to be triggered. “America’s been living on borrowed time all these years, Dominick,” he told me. “Playing the world’s whore, wallowing in out greed. Now we’re going to pay the price.”

He was oblivious of my drumming fingers on the tabletop. “Not to change the subject,” I said, “but how’s the coffee business?” Ever since eight milligrams of Haldol per day had quieted Thomas’s voices, he had managed a small morning concession in the patients’ coffee lounge - coffee and cigarettes and newspapers dispensed from a metal cart more rickety than his emotional state. Like so many of the patients there, he indulged in caffeine and nicotine, but it was the newspapers that had become Thomas’s most potent addiction.

“How can we kill people for the sake of cheap oil? How can we justify
?” His hands flapped as he talked, his palms were grimy from newsprint ink. Those dirty hands should have warned me - should have tipped me off. “How are we going to prevent God’s vengeance if we have that little respect for human life?”

Our waitress approached - a high school kid wearing two buttons: “Hi, I’m Kristin” and “Patience, please, I’m a trainee.” She asked us if we wanted to start out with some cheese sticks or a bowl of soup.

“You can’t worship both God and money, Kristin.” Thomas told her. “America’s going to vomit up its own blood.”
I know what I know about what happened in the library on October 12, 1990, from what Thomas told me and from the newspaper stories that ran alongside the news about Operation, Desert Shield. After praying in silence, reciting over and over Saint Matthew’s gospel, chapter 5, verses 29 and 30: “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee…. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off and cast it from thee: For it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish and that not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” Thomas removed from his sweatshirt jacket the ceremonial Ghurkha knife our stepfather had brought back as a souvenir from World War II. Until the afternoon before, it had been hung sheathed and forgotten on an upstairs bedroom wall at the house where my brother and I grew up.

The orthopaedic surgeon who later treated my brother was amazed at his determination; the severity of the pain, he said, should have aborted his mission midway. With his left hand, Thomas enacted each of the steps he’d rehearsed in his mind. Slicing at the point of his right wrist, he crunched through the bone, amputating his hand cleanly with the sharp knife. With a loud grunt, he flung the severed hand halfway across the library floor. Then he reached into his wound and yanked at the spurting ulna and radial artery, pinching and twisting it closed as best he could. He raised his arm in the air to slow the bleeding.

When the other people in the library realized - or thought they realized - what had just happened, there was chaos. Some ran for the door; two women hid in the stacks, fearing that the crazy man would attack them next. Mrs. Fenneck crouched behind the front desk and called 911. By then, Thomas had risen, teetering, from the study carrel and staggered to a nearby table where he sat, sighing deeply but otherwise quiet. The knife lay inside the carrel where he’d left it. Thomas went into shock.
In the emergency room, my brother regained consciousness and was emphatic in his refusal of any surgical attempt to reattach the hand. Our stepfather, Ray, was away and unreachable. I was up on the scaffolding, power-washing a three-story Victorian on Gillett Street, when the cruiser pulled up in front, blue lights flashing. I arrived at the hospital during the middle of Thomas’ argument with the surgeon who’d been called in and, as my brother’s rational next of kin, was given the decision of whether or not the surgery should proceed. “We’ll knock him out good, tranq him up the ying-yang when he comes out of it,” the doctor had promised. He was a young guy with TV news reporter hair - thirty years old, if that. He spoke in a normal tone, not even so much as a conspiratorial whisper.

“And I’ll just rip it off again,” my brother warned. “Do you think a few stitches are going to keep me from doing what I have to do? I have a pact with the Lord God Almighty.”
“We can restrain him for the first several days if we have to,” the doctor continued. “Give the nerves a chance to regenerate.”
“There’s only one saviour in this universe, Doctor,” Thomas shouted. “And you’re not it!”
The surgeon and Thomas both turned to me. I said I needed a second to think about things, to get my head clear. I left the room and started down the corridor.
“Well, don’t think for too long,” the surgeon called after me. “It’s only a fifty-fifty thing at this point, and the longer we wait, the worse the odds.”

Blood banged inside my head. I loved my brother. I hated him. There was no solution to who he was. No getting back who he had been.
By the time I reached the dead end of that corridor, the only arguments I’d come up with were stupid arguments: Could he still pray without two hands to fold? Still pour coffee? Flick his Bic? Down the hall I heard him shouting. “It was a religious act! A sacrifice! Why should you have control over me?
Control: that was the hot button that pushed me to my decision. Suddenly, that gel-haired surgeon was our stepfather and every other bully and power broker that Thomas had ever suffered. You tell him, Thomas, I thought. You fight for your fucking rights!
I walked back up the corridor and told the doctor no.
“No?” he said. He was already scrubbed and dressed. He stared at me in disbelief. “No?”
In the operating room, the surgeon instead removed a sheet of skin from my brother’s upper thigh and fashioned it into a little flaplike graft that covered his butchered wrist. The procedure took four hours. By the time it was over, several newspaper reporters and TV research assistants had already called my home and talked to Joy.

Over the next several days, narcotics dripped through a catheter and into my brother’s spine to ease his pain. Antibiotics and antipsychotics were injected into his rump to fight infection and lessen his combativeness. An “approved” visitors’ list kept the media away from him, but Thomas explained impatiently, unswervingly, to everyone else - police detectives, shrinks, nurses, orderlies - that he had had no intention of killing himself. He wanted only to make a public statement that would wake up America, help us all to see what he’d seen, know what he knew: that our country had to give up its wicked greed and follow a more spiritual course if we were to survive, if we were to avoid stumbling amongst the corpses of our own slaughtered children. He had been a doubting Thomas, he said, but he was a Simon Peter now - the rock upon which God’s new order would be built. He’d been blessed, he said, with the gift and the burden of prophecy. If people would only listen, he could lead the way.

He repeated all this to me the night before his release and recommitment to the Three Rivers State Hospital, his on-and-off home since 1970. “sometimes I wonder why I have to be the one to do all this, Dominick,” he said, sighing. “Why it’s all on my shoulders. It’s hard.”

I didn’t respond to him. Couldn’t speak at all. Couldn’t look at his self-mutilation - not even the clean, bandaged version of it. Instead, I looked at my own rough, stained housepainter’s hands. Watched the left one clutch the right at the wrist. They seemed more like puppets than hands. I had no feeling in either.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

catch 22 (joseph heller)

General Dreedle's nurse always followed General Dreedle everywhere he went, even into the briefing room just before the mission to Avignon, where she stood with her asinine smile at the side of the platform and bloomed like a fertile oasis at General Dreedle's shoulder in her pink-and-green uniform. Yossarian looked at her and fell in love desperately. His spirits sank, leaving him empty inside and numb. He sat gazing in clammy want at her full red lips and dimpled cheeks as he listened to Major Danby describe in a monotonous, didactic male drone the heavy concentrations of flak awaiting them at Avignon, and he moaned in deep despair suddenly at the thought that he might never see again this lovely woman to whom he had never spoken a word and whom he now loved so pathetically. He throbbed and ached with sorrow, fear and desire as he stared at her; she was so beautiful. He worshipped the ground she stood on. He licked his parched, thirsting lips with his sticky tongue and moaned in misery again, loudly enough this time to attract the startled, searching glances of the men sitting around him on the rows of crude wooden benches in their chocolate-coloured coveralls and stitched white parachute harnesses.
Nately turned to him quickly with alarm. 'What is it?' he whispered. 'What's the matter?'
Yossarian did not hear him. He was sick with lust and mesmerised with regret. General Dreedle's nurse was only a little chubby and his senses were stuffed to congestion with the yellow radiance of her hair and the unfelt pressure of her soft short fingers, with the rounded untasted wealth of her nubile breasts in her Army-pink shirt that was opened wide at the throat and with the rolling, ripened triangular confluences of her belly and thighs in her tight, slick forest-green gabardine officer's pants. He drank her in insatiably from head to painted toenail. He never wanted to lose her. 'Ooooooooooooooh,' he moaned again, and this time the whole room rippled at his quavering, drawn-out cry. A wave of startled uneasiness broke over the officers on the dias, and even Major Danby, who had begun synchronising the watches, was distracted momentarily as he counted out the seconds and almost had to begin again. Nately followed Yossarian's transfixed gaze down the long frame auditorium until he came to General Dreedle's nurse. He blanched with trepidation when he guessed what was troubling Yossarian.
'Cut it out, will you?' Nately warned in a fierce whisper.
'Oooooooooooooooooh,' Yossarian moaned a fourth time, this time loudly enough for everyone to hear him distinctly.
'Are you crazy?' Nately hissed vehemently. 'You'll get into trouble.'
'Oooooooooooooooooh,' Dunbar answered Yossarian from the opposite end of the room.
Nately recognised Dunbar's voice. The situation was now out of control, and he turned away with a small moan. 'Ooh.'
'Oooooooooooooooooooh,' Dunbar moaned back at him.
'Oooooooooooooooooh,' Nately moaned out loud in exasperation when he realised that he had just moaned.
'Ooooooooooooooooooh,' Dunbar moaned back at him again.
'Ooooooooooooooh,' someone entirely new chimed in from another section of the room, and Nately's hair stood on end.
Yossarian and Dunbar both replied while Nately cringed and hunted about futilely for some hole in which to hide and take Yossarian with him. A sprinkling of people were smothering laughter. An elfin impulse possessed Nately and he moaned intentionally the next time there was a lull. Another new voice answered. The flavor of disobedience was titillating, and Nately moaned deliberately again, the next time he could squeeze one in edgewise. Still another new voice echoed him. The room was boiling irrepressibly into bedlam. An eerie hubbub of voices was rising. Feet were scuffled, and things began to drop from people's fingers - pencils, computers, map cases, clattering steel flak helmets. A number of men who were not moaning were now giggling openly, and there was no telling how far the unorganised insurrection of moaning might have gone if General Dreedle himself had not come forward to quell it, stepping out determinedly in the center of the platform directly in front of Major Danby, who, with his earnest, perservering head down, was still concentrating on his wrist watch and saying, '.... twenty-five seconds ... twenty ... fifteen.... ' General Dreedle's great, red, domineering face was gnarled with perplexity and oaken with awesome resolution.
'That will be all, men,' he ordered tensely, his eyes glaring with disapproval and his square jaw firm, and that's all there was. 'I run a fighting outfit,' he told them sternly, when the room had grown absolutely quiet and the men on the benches were all cowering sheepishly, 'and there'll be no more moaning in this group as long as I'm in command. Is that clear?'
It was clear to everyone but Major Danby, who was still concentrating on his wrist watch and counting down the seconds aloud. '...four...three...two....one...time!' called out Major Danby, and raised his eyes triumphantly to discover that no one had been listening to him and that he would have to begin all over again. 'Oooh,' he moaned in frustration.
'What was that?' roared General Dreedle incredulously and whirled round in a murderous rage upon Major Danby, who staggered back in terrified confusion and began to quail and perspire. 'Who is this man?'
'Major Danby, Sir,' Colonel Cathcart stammered. 'My group operations officer.'
'Take him outside and shoot him,' ordered General Dreedle.
'I said take him outside and shoot him. Can't you hear?'
'Yes sir!' Colonel Cathcart responded smartly, swallowing hard, and turned in a brisk manner to his chauffeur and his meteorologist. 'Take Major Danby out and shoot him.'

Sunday, November 06, 2005

time for bed (david baddiel)

It might seem a bit early on in our relationship to try and climb to the top of what I know represents to many people the top of the sexual peculiarities tree, but Dina's pretty experimental. Throughout the night, she was saying 'Tell me what you like. Tell me what you like.' Sausages, I said, eventually, The Carpenters. Dina thought this was a poor joke, a result of inhibition on my part. She wants me to talk to her during sex. I don't know what to say. This may be something to do with having watched too many people talking during sex. I know what they say: 'oh yeah, baby', 'do it to me', 'do you like that? huh?', 'ooo! ooo! ooo!', 'ja, meine Titten, ficken sie meine Titten', 'hahahaha!'. I can't say that stuff, not without growing a moustache and repainting the flat purple.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

brief interviews with hideous men (david foster wallace)

B.I. #31 03-97


‘But you want to know how to really be great? How your Great Lover really pleases a lady? Now, all your basic smoothie-types fellows will always say they know, they’re an authority and such. It’s not a fag, darlin’, you have to hold it in. Most of these fellows, they haven’t got the first damn idea how to really please a lady. Not really. A lot of them don’t even care, to tell you the truth. That’s your first type, your Joe Sixpack cracker-type fellow there, your basic pig. This fellow’s barely even semiconscious about life anyhow, and when it comes to lovemaking why he’s just pure selfishness. He wants whatever he can get, and as long as he gets it that’s all there is to it as far as he’s concerned. The type that rolls on and has at her and the minute he comes he rolls back off and commences to snoring. Go easy there. Why I suppose this is your old-fashioned stereotype male fellow, older, the fellow that’s been married twenty years and don’t even know if the wife even ever comes. Never thinks to even ask her. He comes and that’s all that counts as far as he’s concerned.’
‘These aren’t the fellows that I’m talking about. These are more like just animals, roll on and roll off and that’s all she wrote. Hold it closer to the end there and don’t inhale as much in as a regular fag. You want to hold it in and let it absorb. This is mine, I grow it, I got a room all lined with Mylar and lights, darlin’ you would not believe what it goes for down here. These fellows are just animals, they’re not even in the type of game we’re talking about here. No, because the ones we’re talking about here are your basic secondary type of fellow, the fellow that thinks he’s a Great Lover. And it’s real important to these fellows that they think of themselves as Great and they know how to please her. These right here are your sensitive male smoothie type. Now, they’re going to look like the complete opposite of your white-trash fellow that don’t even give a shit. That’s it but go easy. But now don’t go thinking these fellows are really any better than your basic pigs are. Seeing themselves as a Great Lover doesn’t mean they give any more of a shit about her than the pigs do, and deep down they aren’t one little bit less selfish in bed. It’s just with this type of fellow what they get off on in bed is their own idea of themselves as a Great Lover that can make the little lady just about lose3 her mind in bed. What they’re into is a woman’s pleasure and giving her pleasure. That’s this type’s whole trip.’
‘Oh like oh say going down on her yingyang for hours and hours, holding off their own coming so they can keep at it for hours, knowing the G-spot and Ecstasy Posture and such. Running down to Barnes and Noble’s for all your latest female sexuality-type books so they can keep up on their knowledge about what’s going on. I’m guessing from looking you over out here now you’ve run up against a smoothie a time or two, with his pheromone aftershave and strawberry oil and hand massages and the holding and touching, that know about the earlobe and what kind of flush means what and the aureole and the backside of the knee and that new little ultra sensitive spot they say they found now just at the back of the G, this type of fellow knows them all, and you can be damn sure he’s going to let you know he knows how to --- here, give it here. I’ll show you. Well and now darlin’ you can just bet this type of fellow wants to know if she came, and how many times, and was it the best she ever -- and like that. See there? When you blow out you don’t want to be able to see anything. That means you got ‘er all. I thought you said you did this before. This is not your average cracker ditchweed. It’s like a notch on this fellow’s gun for each time he can make her come. That’s how he thinks about it. It’s too damn good to go blowing half back out, it’s like you got a Porsche and you’re only driving it to church. No, he’s a Notcher, this fellow. That’s a good way to compare them maybe. The two types. Your pig may put a notch for every one they nail, that’s their notches, they don’t care. But your so-called Great Lover-type fellow puts a notch for every time each one comes. But they’re both of them just Notchers. They’re both really the same-type fellow underneath. Their trip is different, but it’s still only just their own trip they’re on, in bed, and the little lady deep down’s going to feel like she’s just getting used just the same. That’s if the lady’s got any sense at all, which is another story. And now darlin’ when it goes down a little more you take and don’t grind it out with your boot there like you do a regular fag. You want to wet up your finger and gently pat the end of it and put it out and then save it, I got something to save them in. Me, I got something a little special but your more run-of-the-mill is one of them little film canisters from the developer, that’s how come nobody ever throws those out. See if you ever see you a little film canister thing in the trash someplace.’
‘No but here’s your classic symptom to tell if it’s one of these Great Lover fellows is they’ll spend whole major blocks of time in bed going down on a lady’s yingyang over and over and making her come seventeen straight times and such, but afterward just watch and see if there’s any way on God’s green earth he’s going to let her turn around and go down on his precious little pizzle for him. How he’ll go Oh no baby no let me do you I want to see you come again baby oh baby you just lie there and let me work my love-magic and such like that right there. Or he’ll know all his special Korean Massage shit and give her the deep-tissue backrubs or haul out the special black-cherry oil and massage her feet and hands - which darlin’ I got to admit if you never had a quality hand massage you have not heretofore even really lived, trust me - but will he let the little lady reciplacate and give him just even one backrub? Nosir he will not. Because this-type fellow’s whole trip is he’s got to be the one giving the pleasure here thank you ma’am. See, it’s a difference, it’s got a screw-lid with an airtight seal so it don’t smell up your pocket, they’re stinky little boogers, and then it goes right in this little flap thing here where why it would be anything at all. Because this is where your smoothie type is being stupid. This is what gives me my contempt for these fellows that go around thinking they’re the Lord’s own gift to the female species. Because at least your cracker type’s halfway honest about it, they want to nail her and then roll off and that’s all she wrote. Whereas but your basic smoothie thinks he’s all sensitive and knows how to please a lady just because they know clitoral suction and shy-atsu, and watching them in bed’s like watching one of those stupid-ass mechanics in white coats work on a Porsche all swelled up on their expertise and such. The think they’re a Great Lover. They think they’re generous in bed. No, but the catch is they’re selfish about being generous. They’re no better than the pig is, they’re just sneakier about it. Now you’re going to be thirsty, now you’re going to want some Evian. This shit’ll dry out your mouth something fierce. I carry these little portable Evians with min in here in this inside part, see? Custom-made. Go on and take one, you’re going to want it. Go on.’
‘Darlin’ no problem, hang on to it, you’re going to want some more in about half a minute. I could of sworn you said you did this before. I hope I’m not corrupting a Utah Mormon here am I? Mylar’s better than foil, it reflects more of the light so it all goes right into the plant. They got special seeds now where the plant don’t get any higher than this here, but it’s lethal, it’s death on a cracker. Atlanta in particular seems full of these fellows, What they don’t understand is their type’s and even worse drag for a lady with any sense than your on-and-off pig ever was. Because how’d you like to just like there and get worked on like a Porsche and never get to feel like you’re generous and sexy and good in bed and a Great Lover too? Hmm? Hmm? That’s where your smoothie-type fellows always lose the game. They want to be the only Great Lover in the bed. They forget a lady’s got feelings too. Who wants to lie there feeling all ungenerous and greedy while some Yuppie with a Porsche shows off his Tantric Clouds and Rain Half-Lotus on you and mentally notching off how many times you come? If you swish it around a little your mouth’ll stay wet longer, Evian’s real good for that, who cares if it’s a dumb-ass Yuppie water if it’s good, know what I mean? The thing to watch for is if the fellow when he’s going down on you if he keeps one hand on the low part of your stomach there to really make sure you’re coming, why then you’ll know. Wants to make sure. This son of a bitch isn’t a Lover, he’s just putting on a show. He doesn’t give a shit about you. You want my opinion? You want to know how to really be Great if you want to please her, that there’s not one fellow in a thousand that’s figured it out?’
Q. . . .
‘Do you?’
‘The secret is that you got to give both the little lady pleasure and be able to also take it, with equal technique to both and equal pleasure. Or at least you got to make her think so. Don’t forget it’s about her. Go on and eat her yingyang till she begs, sure, go on, but also let her at your pizzle, and even if she’s no prize at it why you carry on and make her think she is. And like if her notion of a backrub’s just some of those little pissant karate chops on your backbone, why you just go on and let her, and you carry on like you never knew a karate chop could be like this. That’s if a fellow wants to be a genuine Great Lover and go and think about her for one damn second.’
‘Not on me darlin’, no. I mean I usually do but I nibbled them up already I’m afraid. The real falldown of these wannabe-Great-type fellows is they think a lady is, when you come right down to it, dumb. Like all a lady wants to do is just lie there and come. The real secret is: assume she feels the same way. That she wants to see herself as a Great Lover that can blow the top of a man’s head clean off in bed. Let her. Put your picture of yourself on the goddamn back burner for once in your life. The smoothies think if they blow the little lady’s head off down there they got her. Bullshit.’
‘But you’re not going to just want one, though, darlin’, trust me. There’s a little Mart thing a couple of blocks if we - woah, watch your -’
‘No, you go on and make her think she’s blowing your damn head off. That’s what they really want. Then you really and truly got her, if she thinks you’ll never forget her. Never ever. You follow?’