Glen Pourciau ~ Two Pieces


Rooftop par­ty at our house, drinks, famil­iar guests, view of the sun­set, but Case strays from the group, strides to the east across the flat white roof, stops close to the knee-high rail. My friend Gaspar, like me, takes notice of his move­ment, and we drift sep­a­rate­ly toward him, as if drawn by his foot­steps, and stop a dis­tance away. Case peeks down at the gar­den, seem­ing to judge how high he stands at two sto­ries up, and Gasp glances at me, I sus­pect, due to the align­ment of our thoughts, our resent­ment of Case and our desire to knock him over the edge. My wife, Reva, on the oth­er hand, finds Case charm­ing and invites him to our par­ties because she admires his wit. He sees him­self as an expert on human nature, and he’s pegged me and Gasp, who own restau­rants togeth­er, as human cash reg­is­ters, absorbed and flat­tened by the nar­row world of com­merce. Case has nev­er cre­at­ed any­thing but trou­ble and has always lived off his family’s mon­ey, lux­u­ri­at­ing in the con­ceit that his expressed opin­ions are a gift to the world. We’d like to ignore him, but his mind keeps strik­ing out against us. Gasp quit a long-time pok­er game after tir­ing of Case’s mock­ery of every com­ment and facial expres­sion he made. But Case still lies in wait inside his head, the sight of him enough to acti­vate expec­ta­tions of fur­ther cracks. I have an idea Case knows we’re stand­ing behind him with thoughts of flip­ping him into midair. I’m con­vinced the only rea­son he chats up Reva, regal­ing her with his so-called wit, is to get me rant­i­ng inside. The more she loves Case the more it angers me, and he rel­ish­es every moment of the esca­la­tion. If I ever find out he’s put his hands on her he’ll be eat­ing his cere­al with his face in the bowl. Reva’s shout hits my spine: This is sup­posed to be a par­ty, Jerry. What ideas are jerk­ing you around now? I don’t answer and see that Case looks to be amused by her ques­tion, per­haps because Gasp and I are act­ing accord­ing to plan. I hate that he abus­es our hos­pi­tal­i­ty and doesn’t even have the respect to look me in the eye while he’s doing it. I hear Reva’s voice again: You boys aren’t think­ing of giv­ing him a push, are you? It won’t be that easy get­ting rid of your mem­o­ry of him. Gasp looks back at her, prob­a­bly won­der­ing as I am if Case has some­how plant­ed this zinger in her, her tone boil­ing him over. The lat­est news on Case, as Reva recent­ly informed me, is that he’s con­sid­er­ing run­ning for state office. I shared this nugget ear­li­er with Gasp and he’d already heard it. He com­ment­ed that these days Case could go all the way. I didn’t ask what he meant. Gasp’s anger begins push­ing him in Case’s direc­tion, maybe just to say a few care­ful­ly select­ed words, but I can’t let him get too close if his intent is more aggres­sive. Case sens­es activ­i­ty, his ears perk up, yet he does not look around to judge what’s about to hap­pen, send­ing us a mes­sage that we’re not worth tak­ing seri­ous­ly. My hand is on Gasp’s chest, Reva laugh­ing in the back­ground, is she watch­ing us, and then Case chuck­les. Better slow down, Gasp, I say, too many eye­balls on the roof, too much mess to clean up on the stones below, think what hor­ri­ble stuff will pour out of him if he crash­es. He’s enjoy­ing him­self, as usu­al, Gasp replies and turns and walks to the oth­er guests. With Gasp retreat­ing, Case aban­dons the sus­pense of the roof’s edge and steps near me. Gasp has always been smarter than you, he says, though he’s too stu­pid to know it. He heads for Reva, who’s at once amused by what­ev­er he tells her and rubs his arm and shoul­der as if to heat him up. In my imag­i­na­tion they’re in bed togeth­er, heav­ing them­selves in uni­son and cry­ing out. I take the back stairs down and stand in the gar­den, look­ing up at the rail. I pic­ture Case falling toward me, Gasp above him, arms extend­ed, Case’s face filled with hor­ror at his mis­cal­cu­la­tion. He lands on me, and we crum­ple, groan­ing, unable to get dis­en­tan­gled, my arms too twist­ed and bro­ken to punch him in the face. We strug­gle with­out force, until, slow­ly, our move­ments cease.



I can tell by look­ing at you. Your fun­da­men­tal prob­lem is that you believe you can remain alone in your own mind. It’s impossible.”

For some rea­son this man, with­out ever hav­ing met me, has appoint­ed him­self as my men­tor. I’m at the mall, tak­ing a breather after sev­er­al laps around the low­er lev­el, seat­ed in a vinyl chair. My men­tor has parked him­self in the chair at a right angle from mine. If I get up and walk away will he fol­low me? If I take anoth­er lap will he be sit­ting in the same place when I come back around?

You want to know what I think?” he goes on. “I’ll tell you any­way.  You see very lit­tle of every­thing around you. You don’t take peo­ple in as you walk past them. There’s an invis­i­ble wall around you, a bound­ary that dis­suades entry of oth­ers. I’ve decid­ed to cross that bound­ary. I can see ten­sion twitch­ing to life in your body right now. Words are run­ning through your head, and you’re ask­ing your­self why both­er to answer a stranger. You won­der how some­one you’ve nev­er encoun­tered could see inside you. It scares you to feel exposed and trans­par­ent, as if your deep­er nature could be on dis­play to any­one. You ask your­self if I’ve been fol­low­ing you and for how long. I’ve seen you here before, but only today did I real­ly focus on you. I see that you wear a ring. It’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine you as an inti­mate part­ner, and I’d guess your spouse is lone­ly and mis­er­able with you. Are you hop­ing for a lengthy future as a dis­con­nect­ed per­son? Earlier today I saw a fam­i­ly of five spread out in front of you as you walked toward them. You got jit­tery and refused to slow down. You didn’t con­sid­er inter­rupt­ing your­self but barged through, impa­tient with them for occu­py­ing what you saw as your path. You see oth­er peo­ple at the mall as part of an obsta­cle course, and you con­sid­er it a chal­lenge to get by them as quick­ly as pos­si­ble. You dis­rupt the calm of shop­pers drift­ing through the tem­per­a­ture-con­trolled calm, weav­ing through every­one with no regard for how close you’re pass­ing, unless it dis­turbs your urge for mind­less momen­tum. Why do you think oth­ers should get out of your way? Do you believe you have some impor­tance that only you have the acu­men to see? This pre­sump­tion has no real­i­ty out­side the realm of your self-regard. Are you leav­ing? I have more to say, but I can under­stand why you don’t want to hear it. You pre­fer the com­fort­ing lie that you inhab­it a spe­cial cat­e­go­ry of exis­tence, a super-plat­inum-lev­el view that exists only in your mind? Is that why you want to iso­late your­self? To pro­tect and cling to your illu­sions, fear­ing what you’d be with­out them.”

I’m up and mov­ing away. He fol­lows, his mouth run­ning all the way through the doors to the out­side. Has my wife hired him to tor­ment me? How could she have recruit­ed him? I keep walk­ing toward my car.

Do you won­der if I’m a pro­jec­tion of yours? As you dri­ve away will you con­sid­er the pos­si­bil­i­ty that you imag­ined me? People like you cause dam­age they don’t care enough to dream of because they don’t both­er to accept the real­i­ty of any­thing beyond them­selves. You can get in your car and speed past every­one with­in eye­shot, but my voice will not be silenced. No mat­ter where you go I’ll always be talk­ing to you whether you want to hear me or not. You’ll answer me, again and again, though you’d nev­er give me the sat­is­fac­tion of hear­ing you. If I stand behind your car, will you back over me and dri­ve away? Even then I’d rever­ber­ate inside you, some­one who wouldn’t let you escape with­out hold­ing you to account.  You can’t quite accept that you could have imag­ined me. If I’m not real, then I must have come from with­in you. Why would that be? Why do that to your­self? Think about that and think about this. You come to a per­son who’s a dead end: what do you do? What does your nature tell you? Do you keep going? Are you a fool wast­ing your time if you sit down and talk?”


Glen Pourciau’s most recent sto­ry col­lec­tion, Getaway, was pub­lished in 2021 by Four Way Books. His sto­ries have been pub­lished by AGNI Online, Green Mountains Review, New England Review, New World Writing, The Paris Review, Post Road, The Rupture, and others.