I am tired of so many things. I cry in the restaurant telling Eva about it. She says how are you and I bow my head over the hummus. Eva is a calming soul. I tell her about the man playing piano in the park and how all everyone wants is a quiet place to read a book. I tell her how depleted I am. How all my limbs are tired and my brain isn’t working. How I can’t interview anymore or walk so much or workout every morning. it’s the light, she says. Daylight savings always messes with our senses. All night I dream of the ocean and a tall redwood tree. l night i flail my limbs and my husband, prostrate next to me, says this is not a good thing, you moving like that. in the morning he sits next to me on the edge of the bed and holds my hand in his and says I urge you to go to a sleep doctor. I can’t do it anymore, he whispers, I’m exhausted. I tell him they’re just going to give me more medicine and tell me to stop drinking coffee. They’re going to attach nodes to my temples and follow all the bad thoughts beneath my eyelids. In the morning, I get a cup of coffee and call the sleep doctor. What is the reason for the appointment, she asks. My husband can’t sleep and I can, I tell them. I move into him, in a bad way. She tells me to come in for a consultation. She takes my blood and asks me about my medical history. I am scared of what else they may ask: if I’m happy. What I do for work. If I’m stressed. When I’m going to get married. Where my child will sleep when I finally have one. If i’m even fertile. A week later I go back. I pick a hangnail while she tells me what is wrong. B12 deficiency. Your body isn’t absorbing protein. Are you vegan? No. Are you a vegetarian? No. She say I should get shots. Every week, she say, come here and we will inject fluid into your arm. We will make you well again. She says the lack of b12 may be causing all sorts of problems– depression, confusion, lack of concentration. I walk out and call my husband. I tell him I’m going to be fine and he will sleep again. I can hear him grin across the phoneline. I’m mad at him, but we are mostly a good couple. In the cabin, with our friends, he tries to coerce me to the bedroom, saying, no one will know. I’ll be quick. But it’s solo time, I tell him. I have to write, and I’m close to liking my book. I take my hand from under his shirt, his skin so soft, and kiss him on the neck. Tomorrow, I say, tomorrow morning. The best thing that happens is that I find a comfortable chair to sit in. It’s perched in the corner of the living room, far below the 15 foot ceilings. I write almost an entire page about birds and then erase it. What do i know about birds? I have learned to value a little silence. My husband likes silence too. He meditates every morning, and he gets less anxious now. He is a better person than me. A more…
H.O.W. Journal contributor and board member David Gates has recently published a short story collection, A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me. Pick up a copy!
“This year, I love a man with a hole in his plan.”
“We made it to New York. That’s how we put it when we talk about it with each other, even though it means something different to each of us, and even though we’re both pretty used to it by now. I came straight from school, worked some crap jobs, then landed a decent one. It’s at a hedge fund and I hate it, at least theoretically.”
This makes me think of a writer who runs. He can have ideas only when he runs. However he has a problem remembering the ideas until the end of the run so he decides to run with a dictation machine. It’s not a dictation machine, it’s a tiny tape recorder, it’s not a tape recorder, it’s one of those electric sticks that records the sounds on nothing. In digital no-space. He runs with it once and he records each idea in panting running speech. When he gets home he is excited, but when he presses play the machine has failed him, nothing has been retained. He does not resolve to discover how to properly work the machine. He just takes this as a bad sign and places the machine on the mantel, among his other signifiers. It joins a rotten orange, a flower, a bottled ship, a train ticket, an eye patch, and the universe on the mantel.
“Wilson Willowdell shaved his face. He was naked at the mirror and his mustache kit lay open in front of him. Strapped inside were two black brushes and a pair of small, sharp scissors. He worked the scissors to his thin, dark mustache, taking off just a shade. When he was finished it was even and good. You could not have drawn it on any straighter than he cut it. It was Sunday, the only day that Wilson cooked for himself alone. On other days he attended the ancient skillet at the diner. He cooked slowly but not many complained. His French toast saved him from any real criticism. The toast was fluffy and light as new snow.”
Before I stopped going out, the waitress at the café
on my fine teeth. I read a book on the uses
and misuses of opium, waiting for my food. A tree
shed in the corner. “William Barret, a surgeon
“Gordon’s Lux-O-Liner bounced into the rear end of Boston on streets that seemed to be undergoing a bombardment of some kind. Explosions boomed outside his bus as it passed through shrouds of smoke and steam. It jolted over craters in the road accompanied by insane screeching that turned out to be giant War of the Worlds metal monsters rampaging in fenced-off excavations. He watched them in his tinted window, swinging their mechanical limbs against the sky. Then gray exhaust enveloped the bus and all he could see was himself. The whole city had been a war-zone for decades now. It was even worse today than the last time he’d been here, a year ago, and they were still calling it progress.”
The Curfew by Jesse Ball
A review by Shelby Wardlaw
Behind the dystopian plot of Jesse Ball’s new book The Curfew lies an in-depth meditation on the purpose and state of the artist. At one point, the protagonist William remembers his violin teacher’s instruction regarding the proper way to play a sonata: “You must be brutal, terrible, but with great sympathy, sympathy for all things, and yet no mercy.” Accordingly, The Curfew does not lack for sadness and difficulty. Yet Ball harbors an artist’s appreciation for his raw material; he chooses words that will evoke and yet not devastate. He is, at times, brutal, but always deeply sympathetic towards his characters. The Curfew is a hushed novel, not overly ambitious, but unrelenting in its demonstration of the power and scope of art.
The Book of Freaks by Jamie Iredell
A review by Chris Bundy
The Book of Freaks insists on a combination of division and harmony, like the contemporary novel-in-stories, which contains standalone stories unified by reoccurring characters or a common setting. While Jamie Iredell shuns those two strategies, the book still holds together, rather, fuses as one. Consider, as comparison, the preludes and fugues of Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier, a work noted for its structural regularities yet broad array of styles.