You’ve been here too long, and the toddy’s wrecking your prose. You thought
it would be all right, thought the flow and form would hold consistent,
but the sensations now introducing themselves, stomach to intestines, stomach
to esophageal tract, tell a tale vastly different than one orifice would
give if it were asked. An argument between mouth and asshole; you should
really be hashing this out in private. But the man reading Guns N Ammo is
more intent on keeping you there, wants you to understand that a trigger
lock only means that the smarter kids are the ones to die; he’s got no trouble
with thinning the herd, so long as it served to enhance the percentages
in the gene pool. “But this… I mean, if your kid who already figured out
all the other safety locks and can bypass all the blocks on your computer
and lock you out of your machine because he changed all the passwords to
barney666, then this trigger lock is just gonna give him a challenge he
can’t pass up. You see what I’m saying?”
And maybe you see his point; the first orifice
wondering to him if maybe it doesn’t matter, since the kids in question,
intelligent as they may or may not be, would in time become reflections
of those parents that did or did not have the trigger locks in the first
And then he says your point’s not valid and
you want to argue, but the other argument’s heating up and you’re able now
to get away from the table—you’ll never get it back, the man’s friends are
now converging and your seat’s already gone; “Mind if I share this table?”
he said, and you motioned a sure-why-not to him, since he had his magazine,
and you had Daedalus: the two seemed incompatible and you thought the magazines’
incompatibility and lack of correspondence to each other gave a signal to
silence that you understood. But implicit or explicit it was all lost on
him as his Guns N Ammo misinterpreted Daedalus’ Leave Me Alone as an invitation
for its holder to hold forth. “It says,” the magazine said to the man, “you
should talk to him; it has nothing to say to me…” And so the man obliged
the magazine—but now you and Daedalus are waiting in line at the door to
the bathroom and you think you hear from your place in line an argument
of another kind coming from within. Two mouths.
Two mouths, but from where you stand, your
own internal argument wishing for intervention and resolution, it may as
well be two assholes in the room. Hurry up, you mutter, what is so difficult
about the process that you both must engage in discourse on the minutiae
“Hey, I thought,” it’s the Guns N Ammo man,
alone, the magazine not present for moral support, “we could go shooting
sometime?” And you almost give up your hold on your position in the argument,
almost concede to what would undoubtedly serve to sever the connection between
you and the man, but probably with you and this place as well and so the
standoff is maintained. But the other end of the argument, having sensed
this weakness, gives with renewed strength. But you have hope, you suspect
that intellect will win out over brute force, even if in your case the two
are so closely linked. You’re just staring at the man, your mouth just moving,
give some air through the tracts to it and you’d be saying something like
“Ohh-ah-ah-oh-ah…” but you’re not letting anything out. Your certainty in
regard to mind over matter proves wrong and your head bobs up, then down,
up, down, a warm sickness crawling down your left thigh.
Guns N Ammo man’s elated, you’re running
out the door and he’s yelling at you to wait but you’re halfway to your
car already; left hand pushing the belt apart, you reach with your right
and disrupt the center of gravity and drop to the ground and roll. Something
in your mind tells you to go with it, just roll, and you feel your momentum
carrying you over and you sense your feet going down and head coming up.
Tuck and wait, now spring, straighten the legs. Left forward and you’re
at the car.
The short-legged slug sitting on the hood
of your car, all denim except the stripes up his chest and engineer boots,
tosses his cup and fixes you with one eye. “Were you a ballerina?”
“Your movements are so fluid.”
Keys out, key in, turn and open the door.
You kick off your shoes; they land in the passenger seat. You start the
car and you’re backing out before the slug can move. He rolls off and lands
gelatinous on the gravel lot. Your personal revulsion momentarily forgotten,
you stare and know the terrain, intuiting the relief map of his belly and
face, this vast, soft asteroid pocked by so many spills previous. And then
your right hand and left foot in concert to first and the slug finds himself
in another storm. One quick right turn and stepping hard on the brakes,
you’re behind the store next to the café, parallel to the dumpster.
E-brake on and the car in neutral, you throw the door open and reach to
the seat next to you and grab whatever papers you can. Standing outside
the car, your pants drop, dragging shit all the way down to your socks.
You remove those too and try to clean yourself as much as possible with
the… with your book. And you laugh, a little, at the idea of being your
own harshest critic and hear yourself saying, It’s really not that bad.
And now, naked from the waist down, you spread chapter three on the seat
for the rest of the drive.
“Hey, I got you—it is you, isn’t it?”
You say that you guess it depends on who
you’re supposed to be, but you suppose that regardless of all else, you
probably are. The early morning—a look at the clock: 5:30 AM, early early
morning—light catches on a line of saliva between your chin and the mouthpiece,
your head having just risen from a pool of drool on the pillow. I hate that,
you think, and then the phone starts in on you again.
“I mean, are you the guy from the coffee
shop the other day?”
You recognize his voice. How did you get
He tells you the girl at the café
gave him your name and he called information. Only twenty-three people in
this town have your name, you are informed, and so it’s only taken him twelve
minutes to hit on the right one.
You stammer at him, something about him calling
twenty-three people at five in the morning, and he tells you, “No, it was
Oh, you say. Only eighteen.
“Yeah… so you just ran out the other night.”
“You’re kinda funny. I wasn’t gonna call,
figuring you wouldn’t be right for it, but then I looked at a copy of that
magazine you were reading and realized that you’re one of those intellectual/writer/arty
types. I mean, they’re all into being all unpredictable and going where
their minds lead them. And I thought, hell, you know, I could probably do
with some unpredictability, so I just up and left, not a word to nobody.
But little Bobby got all mad about it and drove by my house later and threw
beer cans at my truck. I guess not everyone’s fit to be one of those intellectual
types, but you know, people got their ways.”
Right for what? you ask him. Intellectual/writer
type… you stare at your pillow, your drool refuting his assertion.
“You know, you said you wanted to go shooting
sometime. I got time now.”
Oh, yeah… that guy. You ask him if he still
feels so strongly about trigger locks. He grunts, not to be distracted.
You tell him you’re busy but ask him for his phone number to call him when
you do have time.
“Uh, yeah. Sure.” He gives it and you don’t
write it down, though the numbers do implant securely in your mind—in no
particular order—you beg off, citing the time. And Guns N Ammo man doesn’t
understand so you tell him you always do your writing at 5:30 in the morning,
so if you want to get some good work in you’ve got to get started.
“Yeah? I’d pegged you for a night owl, but
what do I know about that, right?”
You’re remembering Barton. You’re feeling
the scene and remembering the progression. This must have been an early
draft, you think. Your face back in the puddle on the pillow, you remember
to place the phone back on the hook. And then, pillow flipped over, you
dream him, Goodman, sprinting light-speed across the walls of your apartment,
screaming something about trigger locks for brains. He fixes you with one
eye. “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”
You wake up and feel them, their touch, the Coens, that they’ve ordered
the world, your day. Unwilling to swim a sea of reference, you go back to
sleep. You dream Buscemi. He’s sitting next to you in your bed, stroking
your long auburn hair, “We can cross-reference it for you. It doesn’t just
have to be Coen.” You tell him you don’t have long auburn hair, that you’re
going to cut it, and he tells you he likes you best like this. It’s a stupid
conversation. You wake yourself up.
The conversation with Guns N Ammo man comes
back and you remember your pants left in the dumpster behind the café,
and you’re sad to have let them go. But you remember your reasons, flinch
at the imagined exchange that would take place at the cleaners:
It’s coffee. Turkish coffee.
“Are you sure, sir?”
Yes, damn it. Coffee. Turkish coffee.
“But how did you get it inside your pants?”
It’s shit, all right? You’d have to tell
the girl. This time she’d be pretty. Not just pretty. The girl holding your
pants, nose wrinkled, eyebrows touching each other impossibly across damagingly
deep furrows as her mouth continues to open, she wouldn’t just be pretty,
she’d be fucking gorgeous. The one the aliens made in the early 90’s when
they thought all earth people were beautiful because the entirety of their
knowledge of us came from Victoria’s Secret catalogs. She’d be that one,
and she’d be at every cleaners. Two hundred dollars is a small price to
pay to save yourself from it. Next time, you swear, you’ll buy Dickies.
In the shower, scrubbing your thighs raw
for the fourth time, you decide you may as well make next time this time
and this time today. You remember hearing they’re cheapest at the surplus
store, but not as cheap as Wal-Mart, but you’re not going there, are you,
so it doesn’t count. And so at the café you grab iced cappuccino
to go instead of hot to stay, almost spilling it in your crotch when the
radio sings Burwell’s score at you, and you forcibly—as forcibly as it is
possible—eject the cd from the player.
And then in the surplus store you discover
why the pants are so cheap. They’re sized and colored for surplus people.
You finish the thought and find yourself uncharacteristically ashamed. Must
be the place.
You’re sifting through approximations, and
then a voice behind you: “Melp You? Looking for anything specific?”
Holding a 48/26 in one hand and without looking
up you ask the voice if he ever wondered… if life seemed to him more a montage
of situationally applicable films, and less a life. That all existence pours
itself from the doors of the dollar theaters and we’re stuck in an endless
summer of reruns…
“I don’t know what you mean, but if you’re
making a Deliverance joke, I’m gonna have to ask you to step outside.”
You tell him you’ve never seen Deliverance.
“Piece of crap, you ask me. Got it all wrong.”
You hold up the pants to ask him maybe do
they have closer to your size and your eyes meet and he says:
“Hey, fancy that. It’s the intellectual.”
Yeah, fancy that.
“You look—ah… 33/33. You want black? Hold
on a second, I’ll go in back.” He returns a minute later with black and
green. He shows you to a dressing room and the Dickies fit. He talks to
you through the door and you’re actually admiring the cut of the pants and
wondering was your butt always this good? He’s talking about this place
he likes to go shooting and when you give him a call he’ll take you there.
You tell him you don’t know anything about
guns. You’re lying.
“Well, that’s all right, nothing to it.”
You step out, Dickies laid over your arm.
He’s standing with the “Well?” face and you nod to him and look over toward
the shoes, right next to the guns. He takes the pants from you and follows.
You think of your man Greg at I. Magnin and block the disturbing parallels.
Not really parallel, you think: these pants already fit. You get to take
them home today, no waiting for finishing. You think it says something about
you if you’re able to wait until your clothes are ready, that you can still
move about, that you still interact in the seamless flow of referentiality
that forms your existence. It says something else if you need the pants
now, something you maybe don’t want said. Maybe that you shit yourself at
And you make your purchases, he gives you
a discount and comments on stereotypes. “I wouldn’t figured you to come
in here. But in all this you could pass without no one knowing the better.”
You dissent, saying that identity, however
farcical, is not that fluid; even if our existence is comprised of elements
stolen from fictions we observe throughout our lives, still the selection
of fictions does pigeonhole us into our entirely valid stereotypes… you
tell him that you are who you are and that’s the end of it; neither you
nor he nor anyone are successful chameleons. You want to continue, but you
want to stop talking. He’s not getting it. Dress me up any way you want,
you conclude, I’m still your unpredictable intellectual/writer type.
Guns N Ammo man notices you’ve stopped talking
and hands you your change. “I’m going shooting tomorrow… if you’re free.”
He did give you a break on the duds. You
say sure. You’ll meet him here. Tomorrow at…?
“Can I borrow your pen real fast?”
You hand it over.
“Can I use some paper?”
You flip to an empty page. You know he’s
going to tear out a strange shape, they always do, wrecking the whole page
because they say they only need a corner.
Large, slow moving. Hawaiian shirt. You think
he’ll write slowly. He does. Has to think hard how to handle the pen, has
apparent difficulty remembering how to spell his name. Thug archetype, you
think. It scrawls S-H-A-W-N then pauses. Then the numbers, near illegible,
begin to appear beneath the word. Shawn writes them in no real order, two
digits then a dash, one number and then a third to the left of the dash,
one left of the third digit written and then with what must constitute a
flourish, he tacks the last two numbers on the end. You think he needs different
He tears an almost square from the page,
puts the pen down and extends his hand.
“I’m Shawn,” he says.
I know, you say.
Yes, you tell him you’re psychic.
“Wow. What’s your name?”
You make something up and Shawn tells his
friends outside about the psychic.
The gang’s all here, all of them except Guns N Ammo man, who goes to bed
early. Just think what it would mean if you knew any of them, what it would
mean to say The Gang’s All Here. The concept might carry some weight, each
letter of every associative trait or character or moniker adding up to some
transient, arbitrary sum, not a whole but fragments you suppose you could
concatenate to make of them a tertiary or maybe linearly definable mass.
And you wonder just what you mean by ‘linearly definable mass’ but you know
why the tertiary. And you know anyway since there are no associative figments
to factor toward and solve for mass. The weight of no letters, still you
hold nothing in your hand and can guess at something. A container, maybe,
but you’re not thinking much about it, only seeking to find something to
hold the void, defining by absence of the potential and possible weight
of combined constituents of Gang.
You’re rambling, near incoherent because
you’re going shooting tomorrow. Well, not because you’re going shooting,
but because your references are turning hostile, refusing to form your desired
perception. You closed your eyes and eavesdropped, they were talking about
you. You’re so free with them, Steve said to John, they’re going to take
it to Ethan and tell him just what you’ve been doing. “Gave us such a cursory
glance and then went all mosaic with us, overlapping the misunderstandings
and attributing the bastardized perception to correspondence with us…” But
you thought you were so good, and were so proud to recognize the parallels.
They say it’s too individualized; you’re painting the world with yourself.
How very natural of you. How proper, but your suppositions and the tenets
drawn from them require that it all play out without you.
You opened your eyes, saying to your book,
open, with a pen, Steve and John weren’t themselves, those were your words
and the individualized overlay was the accusation of misuse, and not your
borrowed depersonalized referentiality. That must be it, you fell victim
to a momentary personalization.
And you can’t bear it so you go home. You’ll
show them, you’ll find something to mirror your reality, and you won’t even
use Coen. You’ll trade one Steve for another and let Mr. Martin show them
how wrong they are. But you’re not sure but you can’t sleep until you know
you can argue effectively with them.
You’re dreaming Martin and he says he’ll
have no part of it, that you have to play your stupid game without him.
So you tell him he’s not himself, he’s another manifestation of unsettled,
unwarranted you, and so you say La la la, your hands over your ears; but
you can read his lips: “Ethan wants to talk to you.” It’s stupid. You wake
“Do I have your attention now?” Ethan’s got
a goon with a gun. “I thought the Miller’s motif most appropriate,” he shows
you the rich greens you’ve never been able to master. You tell him you woke
up, so he has to leave, that there’s no cinematic precedent for this. You
haven’t seen this scene—is this some secret Director’s Cut?
“You think you’re safe just because you’ve
never seen Deliverance. You’re an idiot.”
No, you tell him. You say it’s a manifestation
of the limited breadth of your repertoire. You threaten to watch French
films. Where will you be then, Ethan? Where will you be when I don’t read
This is still stupid. You wake yourself up.
Goon With a Gun gives you the butt across
the jaw. “You lack focus,” Ethan says.
This is worse. You go back to sleep.
“Think about imposed perceptual externality,”
Ethan’s hand holding you up by your hair. “I’ve seen Deliverance…”
Banjo. River. Ethan’s drawling.
“You just take ‘em right off.”
Shit. You know that. Revolting Cocks. That
club. Multilevel cross-referentiality. Ethan’s got the big guns. You thought
you were safe. You fight, you play dirty.
You go Disney.
You lock Ethan in the tower, hitch Goon With
a Gun to the pumpkin and escape to the ball. But then you’re rooted to the
sea floor and morays with Guns are grinning and ducking between Ethan’s
eight arms. “That was weak,” he says. “You still want Disney?” And you make
your planty show of acquiescence and it’s not your room but the riverbank.
“Come on now, squeal…”
Ce n’est pas par hasard que les penseurs
d’aujourd’hui parlent plus volontiers de la condition de l’homme que de
Sa nature. Par condition ils entendent avec plus ou moins de clarté
l’ensemble des limites a priori qui esquissent Sa situation fondamentale
dans l’univers. Les situations historiques varient: L’homme peat naître
esclave dans une société païenne ou seigneur féodal
ou prolétaire. Ce qui ne varie pas, c’est la nécessité
pour lui d’être dans le monde… And damned if you didn’t bite
your tongue on it.
So, no. Not the best start to your day. Maybe you should rethink your premise.
An intestinal rumbling hints at another possibility.
Real-time replays of non-cinema, non-literary events closing the loop. Self-reference
on to infinity. But, coupling one inauspicious beginning with another might
not be what you seek, not the loop you want to close. And besides, you’re
at the wrong café, a locale of no reference with nothing to name
your point. If you were going to close your loop, you would want to retrace
to the point of origin, and that’s elsewhere. You don’t have time, you’re
meeting Guns N Ammo man in an hour, the forty minutes of transit to and
from would hardly leave enough time for calibration, let alone locking into
your loop. You’re going to have to go with what you know, keep a tight awareness
on the cinematic flux and establish safe boundaries. Disney won’t work,
and Coen’s gone hostile. Dig deeper. John Hughes perhaps… no.
And then it comes, you’re struck dumb with
the obvious. A challenging obvious, but one that would most definitely ensure
You order a drink. Line them up, you tell
the girl, I’m in a hurry.
You’re so happy.
Guns N Ammo man, he’s got this self-made
man thing going today. He’s been around; you’re the outsider today, the
tourist. He’s taken you under his wing.
“Little Bobby’s coming along.” Guns N Ammo
man introduces Little Bobby. He’s got a camera. And that’s just perfect.
Charmed, you say. They exchange glances.
Guns N Ammo man indicates to Bobby that he should play along. You’re an
intellectual, after all.
You’re smiling, but faltering, the sequence
of events is all out of focus. You should have prepared more. You tell them
you want to get your hair cut.
Maybe just some ice cream.
“Are you coming?” Guns N Ammo man’s opened
the door of the truck. You get in. You pretend it’s a Vespa. And then you’re
off on your little black and white adventure, rubbernecking all the way
out of the city, like you’ve never seen any of this, so confined by your
obligations and always in meetings, proffering goodwill gestures and accepting
similar shows… a monument of some cultural importance blows by and you imagine
yourself enriched… the guys are watching you carefully. Little Bobby makes
a secret sign and Guns N Ammo man tries to draw your attention to something.
“What is it that you do, anyway?” Little
Bobby wants to know.
You reel, you hadn’t counted on that. You
run through every scene, trying to remember what you do… you’re lost, you’re…
I’m a princess, you say.
And you’re on the side of the dirt road,
gravel thrown by the truck pelting your shins. Not the right answer. Your
backpack on the ground, just hit now and tilting slowly on its side, thrown,
as an afterthought, from the truck. Little Bobby didn’t laugh, Little Bobby
stared openmouthed, reaching for the door, an arm shot out in front of your
face, then down, and you saw Guns N Ammo man’s leg, you saw the sole of
his big black boot coming. The truck slowed, door opened and you weren’t
holding anything, weren’t belted in. Your shoulder hit first, you rolled
and you think you bounced. You came to rest—no, you slammed into a tree.
But not slamming so much, you’d slowed some and then the tree stole your
momentum. You saw the word inertia on a page flashing on some lower level
thrown forward by impact, the pages then turn and flap, you see entropy
and remember a class and realize an innate inability toward self-reference.
You take a cue from your backpack: it falls
on its side. You stop moving; a zipper on the front pocket open and your
things spilling on the ground, you close your mouth, close your eyes.
“Out here in the woods… like some dumb animal…”
Leave me alone, Ethan, you say.
“Look in your bag…”
“There you go again, twisting it in inapplicable
ways, mixing my metaphors and you without your hat.”
You say you don’t wear hats.
“Maybe that’s your problem.”
You thought you understood the symbolism
there, you had it on good authority just what the hats meant. But you’re
not going to tell Ethan. And it’s true, you didn’t wear a hat because you
thought it meant something he didn’t say. How sweet if that was the only
problem. The sun in your eyes blurring everything, the top of your head
burning, Ethan lost in waves. You lunge at him: solid contact. He falls
back, hands up, says nothing. You can go. He’ll leave you alone. You make
a finger pistol and empty your chambers into Ethan.
Lips dry, eyelids straining against tear-caked lashes—you rub the crust
and look around. Still the tree and you’re thirsty. You assume you must
be thirsty anyway, it’s the sort of scenario where you would expect a character
to list thirst among his various complaints. You do, however, have a first-person
account of pain fresh in your mind. Pain in your shoulder, hip, back, cheek,
an anatomical litany of sensorial abuse. You don’t think it’s supposed to
show. You cry out: Cut To:
SIDE OF ROAD: WOODS
A few minutes later. you walking slowly toward YOU’S BAG. YOU bends and
extend YOU’S left arm to retrieve it.
You reaching, still maybe ten feet from the BAG.
You like that? Camera trick. I used your light
and heat to create a
physical displacement. A mirage of your bag.
Leave me alone. This is mine.
Sorry. No can do, buddy. This is not yours. You’re
This is too mine.
BAG is suddenly at you’s feet.
You are an actor. I’m the director. You were playing
it so badly, and
we tried to help, but you wouldn’t take direction.
Extreme, my friend,
extreme measures were called for—I’m sure with
sensibility you can understand that. We had to
step in. Look in your bag.
You reaches into the FRONT POCKET. you’s CHAP STICK has melted and covered
everything with protective goo. You pulls out a MATCHBOOK, its paper shiny
and reinforced now. You tries to TEAR it, but you can’t.
No, you idiot. In the bigger pocket. I had the
props people come out
and reset everything after you called the cut.
You know, friend, that
was a bad move, trying to direct. Go on. Look inside.
YOU unzips the BAG and extracts a SCRIPT
Shot of COVER of SCRIPT
A screenplay by
It’s just a first draft, you know. We’re still
trying to pin your character
down, if you’ll excuse the pun.
YOU FLIPS through some PAGES. YOU READS:
It’s just a series of bits of
YOU DROPs the SCRIPT
replayed to give a semblance of
than personal experience
serving as the impetus for
I didn’t say that.
We made you definite. Less rhetoric. You should
know we’re not
rhetorical. I think you’re a much better character
This is stupid. You wake yourself up.
Hi. (waves HANDS at YOU) You can’t do that.
This is really scary. You wake yourself up.
Here, I’ll show you.
ETHAN picks up the SCRIPT, turns to an EARLY SCENE.
There it is. Joel’s masterstroke, if you ask me.
Love those old
You must understand this. Each
of us, if you’ll allow
me to borrow your metaphor, is the director of our own
that is, our lives are our own to control.
No, Doc. I’m just an actor.
Well, you get the idea.
ETHAN hands YOU the SCRIPT, open to PAGE 23.
YOU DROPs the SCRIPT.
That’s as far as we’ve gotten. But don’t worry.
We’ll have more for
you soon. I’ve got to tell you though, that Roman
Holiday bit, that
was yours, and brilliant too. Joel really liked
it. Steve’s asked to be
Guns N Ammo man and Joel thinks John would be
a great Little
Bobby. Joel’s working on it right now, a whole
other story arc
between him and his princess.
YOU STARES at ETHAN.
Oh, go on, ad lib a little. We’ll edit it out later.
I don’t want to be Bobby’s princess.
You already are.
Don’t worry, it’ll be great.
Your hands are shaking too much to write,
but you keep scribbling, the irregularity troubling you less than yesterday
when you couldn’t hold the pen at all. The girl behind the counter is
grinding to the music, trying to get your attention but you won’t look
up from your hands. You stopped taking the medication a week ago, you
missed your appointment with Dr. Hunt. You’re not going back. The page
in front of you reads, in a near-indecipherable scrawl: I feel like a
bag of electric jell-o.
Little Bobby will be here soon. He’s the
one that told you to stop taking the pills. He stayed by your side those
three unconscious days, stroking your hair, telling you it would be all
right. You smooth the front of your dress, brush your hair out of your
face and wonder if you have something to hold it.
Little Bobby’s here now, easing his bulk
behind the narrow table, small eyes twinkling above his full, raw but
freshly shaved cheeks. He drops a small, wilting flower on your book and
You order him coffee, black. You have a