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Gordon Lish


I only have a certain number of minutes for me to tell you this one. Or I have only a certain number for me to. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, I only do-but am, but have been-look at me! look at me!-already wasting some of the ones I do. Except the thing of it is is this: where the screw does the only go, where the screw is the only supposed to?

Because it has just been made clear to me that I do not know whether where it is supposed to is before or after the have.

The positioning of the adverb, I mean.

Or is it that it's not?

Is, rather, an adjective, that is.

Look, if I had all the time in the world, if I had as much time in the world to tell a dog story as I bet you would probably have time in the world to tell one, then here is how I would have probably begun to tell you this one and not the way I did:

Let me tell you what our custom was-for it was for us to make our unhurried way arm in arm along High Street when the commerce in it was first giving evidence of its having begun to come for the day to the end of its incidence and when none but the ladies of station still sought to keep the shopkeepers established in states of attention in hopes perhaps of their-of the hopeful merchants, that is-disposing of whatever further of their wares. It was then that she customarily for her part and I for mine would hasten from our sleepy offices to collect ourselves at the corner of High and Indenture and then to turn in along High and to take ourselves along our practiced course to where the vendor, at Cathedral, from the shelter of a sidewalk stand, sold a variety of grilled sausages and, to go with them, any one of them-if one wished it to-one variety of bread.

Forget it.

I do not have time for anything as leisurely as tarrying with food in or even out my mouth.

The minutes I have are fewer than the minutes I had-and I can see there are sentences yet for me to go before I can get to the punchline yet.

Which anyhow goes, in certain of its acoustical and lexical occasions, like this:

"They killed my dog there. But did I not tell you that they killed my dog there?"

Because I, in the story, say to her, in the story: "It is so nice here. It's so nice."

Whereupon she says, "It is. Yes, very. It is very nice, isn't it?"

"Yes," I say, "it certainly really is."

"But I think it is decisively nicer in Zurich, I think."

That's she.

Now here's-in the story, that is-me, I, speaking in it.

"It is?"

"I think it is, yes."

"Zurich," I say. "Imagine it, Zurich," I say.

"Yes, very," she says, reaching into her purse for the money to pay.

"Then you have been to Zurich?" I say.

"Oh, yes," she says. "Yes," she says. "I actually," she says, "lived there, was once in residence there, you realize."

"Imagine it," I say. "The famous burial place," I say. "The place of the famous burial, that is."

"Oh, yes," she says. "Lived there-oh, yes-years literally-literally years."

"Years?" I say. "Actually years?"

"Oh, yes-very," she says. She says, "Quite literally longer than he did, you know. Actually," she says, "Zurich. But did I not tell you they killed my Schatzie in Zurich?"

I acquired the blutwurst-with which no mitigating breadstuff, to my mind, would be required.

Okay, time's up. She is fucking making me crazy all over again anyway. Or she anyway is making me fucking crazy all over again.

Well, let's face it, sweetface, there are no more minutes-nicht , you know, wahr?

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus-I am positively, I honestly believe, famished.


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