A Portrait of Max Fleischer’s Final Minutes
There are some things I won’t do though I haven’t figured out what they are. Except the obvious, like stop talking, which hardly counts. Sometimes I enjoy inventing reasons for doing things I thought I wouldn’t do. It’s a matter of perspective, and I may be lacking just enough certainty to forget what it means to be myself, or maybe my self doesn’t want to be tied down to a relationship with an unreliable person no matter how fascinating it finds the justifications, which might mean I have a self fully prepared to reject itself.
It’s true I have often wondered if I should remain friends with my self after recognizing such disturbing potentials, but then I have also wondered if I should stay friends with my self when no such potentials had been in evidence.
I’ve been waiting a long time for something to happen because I perceive my life as a story and something usually happens in a story and my life hasn’t done much of that yet.
I don’t like to turn on the light when I’m reading. The transfer of the black words to my darkening mind seems so much smoother without it. Friendship may not have anything to do with it.
While I was considering my friendship or lack thereof with my self, various unreasonable objectives were considered and reapplied to the ceiling’s delicious sag. I often wonder if it did not contain a movie of my life in which the husband and wife were not married, but refused to have sex with each other anyway. In the movie her name might have been Condolence, and I might have been disturbed at the prospect of losing her.
So I drank one side of the wine.
I have recently noticed that my answering machine has filled with silence. I knew it was you, but what you wanted called several yesterdays ago when I was not even myself. Of course I don’t think I’m any better than you, but that doesn’t stop me from sometimes thinking so, the same way I know you do. Perhaps I only live in Seattle because the gentle light and the wet air reminds me of the womb, or perhaps I don’t have a clue what a womb is like, and I stay here anyway. Maybe condensation is a skill.
So I drank the other side of the wine.
My dear Condolence,
I have thought of your delightful mousy curls so often during our separation and my borderless career reminds me this is what life pays you to do. There doesn’t, however, seem to be anyone listening because they’re all visiting the previously unrealized. I should like to call to your attention my persistent efforts to recruit my bucket of departing watersongs for a rousing rendition of Never Miss Your Water till the Well Runs Dry. I can’t seem to stop considering the less obvious aspects of your involvement in my well being, or more accurately my being well, for my good taste was offered for inspection and came back with a mysterious illness. Perhaps I could consult with you concerning certain anatomical considerations which have arisen?
With Renewed Affection,
Or perhaps her response might have been as unexpected as the beauty of the asylum garden. Or perhaps I am the cocoon and not the butterfly.
My inner child ate my outer one. Further outside tried to come in. Sometimes I try to find myself in the linen basket. My defects do not require any platform upon which to be examined, but perhaps you’d like to assist me.
I once dated a dental hygienicist whose face was fat enough to absorb all the inattention I gave it. I do not think I deliberately ignored her, but perhaps I let her think my attentions meant more than they actually did, in which case I shall feel dreadful, though I’m not certain when.
I make a delightfully coercive soup, aided and abetted by a collaborationist salad. I am not an active participant in meteorological disturbances. Ask the fat aunt daubing whale oil on her wrinkles, her breasts’ still perky snouts snuffling to uncle’s toothless mouth while he burps and bobbles them with calloused hands. Oh there were many others.
Just as I once knew a weak man with a fat missing hand who dreamt of big firemen and little firemen saving big ladies and little ladies. He also dreamt of a rabbit drummer and a square-dancing cat, and he chased his cat into the fireplace and woke before he could determine whether there was a fire in there.
Following my encounter with the dreaming man, I was intrigued and disturbed to find myself in possession of several dreams of my own containing butterflies and dancing cows, carrot babies in a basket, and a fat rat with a very fat daughter named Lou Ellen who likes roller skating, hockey and deep sea diving. She was stolen by a waffle and then in a surprising and dangerous interruption, peeled a wobbly police potato and then she said Honeydew I give you all the kisses you want.
My breath is 48 inches long, and I look like someone you don’t know talking to someone else you don’t know in the mirror alone in the bedroom. I tend to avoid women with calendars in their underwear. There’s a slash in the separation of church and my current state of abbreviated intentions. The doctor said so, but a doctor’s got to get outside the body to vacation, which is harder when your thoughts are inside the body inside the thoughts of another in pain or undesirable possibility and worse.
I was at that time making the same progress a seagull makes flying into the wind and returning just as fast as the seagull is leaving, only the earth turns underneath at an unobservable rate that means there is progress where there appears to be no progress.
I had a small nervous emotion in my head that wanted to get out. It was not a cause for great consternation, but it wanted to get out. I decided not to listen to it. I don’t believe heartfelt pleas are for forgiveness anyway.
Svevo wasn’t interested in explaining how to fix the problem, so I told him how seductive I could have been with the right advice, and Svevo went to a monastery to acquire a selection of warts for his experiment and found a bewildering array of wens, pustules, boils, chancres, skin tags, and unidentifiable appendages to complicate his experiment, but some of the monks refused to part with their growths while many returned to the rivers and ponds from which they had emerged.
We seemed then to have been nibbling on a creature with legs. We believed this creature was rather tasty, but we couldn’t agree on whether or not the reason for this was the inclusion of the legs, and we discussed it enjoyably at great length; however, Svevo was not forthcoming with the right advice.
I’m certain only that the beginning was ending again, but the ending was not beginning. An errant concept of the monks was chasing me down the gravel road to overindulgence, but it had too many human legs to dissuade me from my lonely porcelain thirst.
A river and a wooden goal post live here during the last minutes of confession, but no sports addicted teenagers. This temporary marriage could be compared to a scholarly crazed priest inordinately certain of his ambitions or the lenient part of the hateful mumbling of ice polished with wind. The monks might have tried to read the leaves but found the language too difficult. It wouldn’t shout and it wouldn’t cry.
At least one world is still holding under the tangled flanks of first one then the other son of the daylight mourning. Everything I knew about time has advanced and begun eating, and a kind of father won’t stop calling out from his perch deep inside nightfall.
When I was young enough to forget, the Japanese navy attacked my foot after hours crossing the linoleum waves and lost all pretense of dignity, as prisoners who know only confession in retrospect are wont to do
There was so much that I couldn’t have said that she wouldn’t have understood anyway. It was a good thing we weren’t communicable.
Someone once told me that I ate like a mole, which isn’t very much, but all the time, and always alone. I thought it was a compliment, but without the invitation.
How can you say a man is dead when to speak of him in the present is to deny that he is not, at least in some way, alive? Perhaps you could speak of his body, which is at least present for a short period of time while he is not. Perhaps you could speak of him only in the past tense, which belonged to him at least as much as it belonged to anyone else.
Hers had a beautiful meat and mine a face like a slapped opossum.
You need him. You want that tragedy repeated, so our hero lives to fall another day. He’s nearly dead again already, and you don’t want to understand why he needs you.
We break up the night into blocks and load them into the elevator and push the button for the penthouse, which doesn’t exist in this building, and we can’t see that, so it gets darker, and the blocks fall out of themselves and meld with the idea of what we’ve been doing that falls like a microscopic feather from the rooftop that must exist somewhere above the penthouse, beyond our uncertainty and our desire to have its parts available to us in pieces, no matter how dark they might be.
If they ask you to stay, say your mother is drowning, you have to go home.
It’s hard to have a theory for every leaf that falls outside your imagination, but it’s not so hard to recognize the age-old desire to be smaller than yourself.
It’ s a little like a story of a chair that just sat there and held on to a story about a chair that just sat there. It’s the same chair you could use to study the sincerity of an embrace.
Sometimes I wish not to be found in my body, the durable world still outside the right kind of adventure after adventure, and the air always full of itself, and never any place better to go.
It’s a place where sorrow is philosophical and pain is merely a sketch for some greater reality, where what you know, finally, is what you don’t know, and the only thing inarticulate is speech.
Rich Ives has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coördinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. His writing has appeared in Verse, North American Review, Massachusetts Review, Northwest Review, Quarterly West, Iowa Review, Poetry Northwest, Virginia Quarterly Review, Fiction Daily and many more. His story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking, was one of five finalists for the 2009 Starcherone Innovative Fiction Prize. The Spring 2011 Bitter Oleander contains a feature including an interview and 18 of his hybrid works.