Stirring : A Literary Collection

James Lineberger


(I am seated at my computer, facing it, facing you. Behind me, behind the clutter of electronic gear with its cables and blinking lights and the shipping boxes it came in, there is an overhead screen, which you are to assume is my monitor. On which I tap out everything youíre about to read, as it appears in real time, letter by letter, word by word, the way someone would send to you on ICQ, with all the accompanying mistakes and backtracks and erasures and leaps here and there, performing some corrections, leaving off others when the ďactionĒ seems to accelerate or grow more heated. In addition to the main screen, up center, there are two others, right and left of it, on which you can see downloads of various news clips, regional maps, pieces of interviews, disaster footage of floods, hurricanes, etc., interspersed with pics of naked teenage and prepubescent girls, bondage and other kinky stuff,drawn from newsgroups and porno sites.)


ME:††† This morning, we made our umpteenth air strike on Iraq, hitting communications sites near Baghdad. Three dead, Baghdad says. The pentagon isnít saying anything, but they arenít smiling either, so that means either a lot more dead, or something worse. Dead like us, perhaps. Dead like the clouds of stuff weíve already released over Saddamís desperate dying country.


So, Iím waking up to this burble of maps and commentators on the noon news. And last night it was the raccoons again, the fucking raccoons they never give up. Somehow, donít ask, a pair of them tore the fascia loose at the rear of the house and then hung upside down while they chewed through the half-inch plywood soffit beneath, until they had a hole about two feet long and ten inches wide, like someone had fired a rocket through the thing, vinyl flopping and plywood splinters sticking out and the great darkness of the attic beyond.


And this does not even address the wind and the rain, which, in tandem, ripped loose some shingles in a ten foot area of the roof, letting the water spill into the attic, and soak through the insulation which held it until the mass became so heavy that the whole damned up mess broke through the sheet rock and came spilling down onto my bed, soaking the bookcase nearby, the hardwood floor, and leaving another huge hole in the house, this one opening up to the attic void from within.


So here I am, raccoons invading from the west, winds and rain from the vaults of heaven. And to this I have to add fucking Saddam again, and his hordes, and the goddamn fucking pentagon, and its fucking aircraft hitting everything that moves or beeps or tries to lock on.


And thatís not all. Consider this: consider the Japanese fishing boat sunk by our nuclear sub as it surfaced. And somebodyís telling me that we hit Saddam to shift focus from the fishing boat because those civilians at the controls were wealthy hotshot contributors from Texas.


And who knows? Maybe itís true. Clinton used everything at his command every lever he could pull every button on the console to hide some blowjobs that were already fading into the past, like her name, her name he could never remember. Sweetheart, he would say. So sweet.


Iím not turning on the speakers yet because I want you to see my thoughts as they happen; want you to wrestle through this with me, okay? And no cameras yet, no distractions. But please, please understand, this is part of getting there, this is part of being together.†† This is how we will cum today . . .gradually, okay?


So, what were we, oh yes, hereís more. The old German shepherd, Lady, needs her nails clipped again. Itís so bad she can hardly get up and down on the linoleum floor, the way the nails skid out from under her, and it isnít that she minds my cutting them. Itís . . . itís oh fuck itís finding enough time to get one single thing done before another one rears up to giggle at you like some fucking inmate escaped from the deep darkness of the fucking asylum.


So okay. So letís get organized here. Weíll, weíll make notes.


But the oldest cat, dear old Spunky, has pissed on the writing pad, my favorite pad, by the way, one of those old fashioned blue books we used to use for tests back in college. I loved it then, everything so new and wonderful. College was like being Miranda discovering the world.


And then, then we discovered the world. It was not brave. It was not new. It was the same old shit theyíve all had to put up with. Only, this time, right now, itís worse.You there?


(On the left screen, a womanís image appears, obviously taken with a digital camera. She too is stationed before her TV. A paraplegic. One hand missing at the wrist. She begins removing her clothes slowly, with some difficulty, but with not much attempt to appear sensual, at least not yet: theyíve done this, one supposes, on more than one occasion in the past.)


I hope youíll forgive me for this rant. I know Iím taking up valuable time. I know youíre there my darling. Just bear with me a bit this morning. Iím . . . I donít know what I am just now. Iím feeling. Alone. Thatís all. Canít explain that. Lonely, okay?Just need to talk before we. Before.


And then, sometime before supper, I have to go visit my sister-in-law at the nursing home. Sheís in the final stages of early-onset Alzheimerís, which has reduced her to a childish babbling and weeping and begging to see her sister again, her sister who is usually seated right there beside her when sheís asking for her. This sister now is not her sister, her sister dwells in memory only.


So thereís that.


And the goddamn Corsica needs brakes, especially the front discs, which are digging into the rotors and screeching like banshees.


Sometimes. Sometimes I think Iíll just.


So okay, I tried to cut Ladyís nails. Did okay on two of them then cut into the quick and drew blood on two more, and that did it, fuck it, she didnít cry or anything, didnít even seem to notice, but I had to use my styptic pencil, the only styptic pencil I had. Oh, forget that. Forget I said that, okay? Look, itís not that styptic pencils are important per se. Itís . . . itís . . . fuck it. Donít ask.


So here we are, Lady and me, sitting on the floor and she has her paw out like some fancy dog at a dog-a-cure parlor, not minding a bit, and actually feeling kind of superior, kind of, with the other dogs standing around sniffing at the cut off nails falling around them like dead bees.


See, Lady is not the only one to consider here. There are eight others. Their names. You donít wanna know their names. Who cares? Just one big happy family, you get the picture, two Pomeranians, a miniature Pinscher, couple other mixed breeds, a Chihuahua, a Cockapoo, which is not a breed, but a lot of owners want it to become one, and what else? I forget. If it comes to me in the next little while, Iíll try to get it down.


So, weíre all sitting here, and Ladyís blood is all over my styptic pencil, and sheís licking blood from her nails too, lapping it up like sweet cream.


Another one is a poodle, name of Stanley. Named after this movie producer I once worked for who fired me one Easter when I said I couldnít work I had to move my family to Burbank.††


Rex is the small Pomeranian.And the noisier of the two. Other one is blind.Think maybe a cat took out his corneas one at a time on two different occasions.


So my wife called Stanley up and said you cock-sucking heartless Jew bastard the entire world is not made of money and you can go fuck yourself.


The blind one is named Coco.Never bothers anybody. Except maybe the minute you get sit down for supper he decides itís time for you to take him up in your arms and carry him out for a shit and a look at the sunset, which to Coco is just a glorious big ball of light that shimmers all around him like the northern lights over the St. Lawrence.


So Stanley fired me, and then our son was killed in an auto/train collision and then nothing meant anything anyway for the longest time.


(Switching to mike. My image appears on the other right screen. The middle screen is empty except for cursor. Beginning to remove my clothes:


YOU:††† Hi.


ME:††† Hi, baby.


YOU:††† you ever get scared for no reason at all but youíre too scared to even think about what it might be that was causing it?


ME:††† No.


YOU:††† Me too.


(We sit there, naked and silent and alone. The moment extends. And holds some more. And then the scene goes to black.)

Location: Hell's Half Acre, North Carolina
Publications: Stirring V2:E9, V3:E2, etc.

Stirring : A Literary Collection

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