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What brings me here? What power suppressed, what medicine neglected, has turned the mundane night inside out like this? When I slip through the fallopian tube of a pregnant pause back into my heartís cavern, will I remember what it was like to be caged between my ears, dodging sickly lightning, looking at myself from impossible angles through a monochrome kaleidoscope? Am I artificially conjoining discreet events when I talk to different people about the same thing while glancing over their shoulders at the spray paint dotting the abused Vatican City flag in the corner? Now more than ever, I have questions. Dick Cavett has answers. He is on a television attached by plastic jump-rope to the crumbling wooden rafter, doing a monologue no one can hear. Two thoughts about him have been coagulating in my petri dish since I arrived from wherever I was before. One is that he really shouldnít be doing television anymore, what with his age and his chronic depression and the fact that he is, Iím pretty sure, dead. More worrisome still is the way that, encouraged by the motions of his arms, the two trained show poodles who came in with the Superintendent jump up as if begging for a snack biscuit, bounce on a mini-trampoline in quick succession and do back flips, landing in unison like hairy little gymnasts on the concrete floor. Perhaps it is an exaggeration to say they do it every time Dick Cavett raises his hands, but itís happened at least twice and I am not naïve enough to believe in coincidence anymore. All evidence suggests that he is controlling them, and since the people here are all angled in the direction of the dogs, since their conversations all allude in some way to the dogs, since the energy in the room is a circuit flowing in the direction of the dogs, it is no great leap of the imagination to conclude that their acrobatics are the performance that we have come here to witness, the thing we are watching but wonít admit weíre seeing. Which means that Dick Cavett, in the face of daunting odds, is in control. The last laugh is his. I am in a delicate place right now and canít think about this for too long so I turn to make my way through the spectators to the bathroom. The bathroom, Iím sure, will be empty and quiet. For reasons I canít recall it is locked and Iíve got the only key and Iím the only one who knows about it. All the way there I feel a muscle in my right leg vibrating like a cellular phone, which I believe is the first sign of some terminal disease or other. 

The bathroom is indeed empty and quiet and my leg is still vibrating, but when I touch it I realize itís not a muscle at all but an actual phone. I take it out and look at it, savoring the suggestive pulsation, and then catch sight of myself in the mirror, beholding this chunk of bite-sized technology the way a monkey might have beheld the Italian Renaissance. I push the green button and hold it to my ear without saying anything. I want to be careful not to give myself away. On the other end there is a womanís voice calling itself Cynthia and claiming to be my wife. It asks me when Iím coming home and I giggle. I love riddles. The voice is patient. It talks about the importance of sleep and getting back into the swing of things after all the recent difficulties. I am glad that it is talking to me in the empty resonant room. Over and over I say thank you to it, I say I really appreciate it making contact across so much distance. Let me tell you a funny story, I say, about how I thought my leg was vibrating with impending death but it was really just you trying to reach me. The voice seems to be losing patience. It asks me to wait and then there is another voice, a little boyís now. It says hello in a more conversational tone. No riddles about coming home. Just a request to play gin rummy again sometime soon. It says it had great fun during our day-long tournament in the sun room. What a combination of words. Sun room. I tell the voice to enjoy that room while it can, to soak in it. Maybe events will conspire to deliver me there again and perhaps a deck of cards will be in the vicinity as well, and then who knows? Another day of lazy competition or something else worth savoring. I apologize to it, explaining that Iím not really in charge of my own itinerary anymore, that I jump from travel agent to travel agent, and that right now, unlikely as it may seem, Dick Cavett is calling the shots. It asks if I want to talk to Mom again but I donít know what it means. My mother is long gone. This voice, kind as it is, must have the wrong guy. Sure, I say, Iíd like to talk to her again, but it isnít going to happen. It says okay, pauses. Then it says please. Tell me. Do you understand whatís happening? I am laughing to myself about this conversation. The voice wants me, of all people, to explain. Okay, look, I say, almost crying now because itís so funny. I know where I am. Everything is quiet and I have the only key. The floor is telling me that everything fits together despite natural and manmade obstacles that divert the current now and again, making it difficult, at a glance, to tell whether the geometry of the tiles really works out. But it does. The contractors plan it that way, with calculators. So thanks, I say, thanks for the call. I really appreciate it. Iíve had enough of you now for a lifetime.  

     [Forever after at]


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pboz #5 is available for preorders! - hobart #4 is now available - (beautiful!) boom #1 is totally available

david barringer's "terminally curious" - his "johnny red" - charles ullmann's strategies 4 modern living

randall devallance's dive - incidents de egotourismo - kevin sampsell's beautiful blemish

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the duck & herring three's lit crit contest


attention west coasters!


like Scott Bryan Wilson's latest contribution and Mr. Coy's recent posting, today Mr. Ullmann continues
our "photofiction" experiment, wherein a writer writes exactly 1000 words about a picture
provided by the eyeshot editor -- if you'd like to participate, let us know,
and we'll send you a picture


the memorial compilation of letters to frank conroy from his students