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  #1  
Unread 05-27-2022, 06:16 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Default I Don't Know What This Is Story

Lawrence _ _ _ _ _ BA/MA/Ph.D
RIP


My friend Lawrence—no one called him Larry—died last week. He'd been sick for months. Cancer got him in the prime of his life. When Lawrence overheard a nurse say that about the prime of his life, he shook his head and said “fuckin' math.” Sometimes he was funny, but not often. He was a philosopher by trade and taught at the university until he got sick. It's hard for a philosopher to be funny. Every little thing means something. There was precious little that let Lawrence shrug his shoulders.

I sell paper to printers. Sometimes I pick up an occasional magazine when I'm stuck in some asshole purchasing guy's lobby while he's making me wait. That's all I read. I've been selling paper since I dropped out of college. Lawerence and I didn't have smarts in common. Lawrence had enough for both of us. We were friends on a lower level, which makes sense because we met when we both were at the bottom of the deepest, ugliest pit you can imagine. If there's a deeper hole on this green Earth God's saving it for the devil.

No, we didn't have a meeting of the minds, whatever in the hell that is. We had just saved each other's life. We were two handfuls of dirt, each offering his handful to the other. Lawrence became the only person who I wouldn't cuss out when he called at three o'clock in the morning. I'm going to miss the bastard. Fucker left me here alone to wait for my turn to crumble away.

He told me something right before he died. He was on pain medicine, which bothered him more than it should have. He wanted to leave without it, but his nurses convinced him he was an idiot. The next day, after the nurse told me I should let him rest is when he told me what he said he'd never revealed to anyone. His most important thought, which I needed to understand was now in my hands, was my responsibility. I rubbed the top of his now-bald head to tell him I understood because I couldn't talk. The next day he began slipping into a coma, partly because of the drugs, partly not. So, he told it to me on what was, for all intents and purposes, the last day of his life.

We'd had hundreds of talks over the years. I didn't think there was anything else to know about him and don't know why he wanted to tell me this, the guy with the burned-out brain who forgets where his feet are going pretty much every day. It just goes to show that you never know anybody as much as you think you do. To top it all off, I don't know why in the hell I'm writing this down, except I feel like he would want me to. I guess that means Lawrence was right. Life is one big complicated knot, one big clusterfuck is how I'd put it. It seems like more fun from the outside than it is on the inside.

II.


What Lawerence told me will be revealed later. Everything is slippery—lights at night, the slide of my hand down a jacket sleeve, the way a dog looks at you with eyes full of love before he runs off to eat his own shit. The way Lawerence slipped away that night when no one was looking. He was like a thief. Not one of those crazy mean home invaders. The kind that will take a family hostage. Lawrence was like a small, thin man dressed in soft black that eased through cracks in the wall. He traveled all the time after we came out of the institution and he went back to work writing books and teaching. He was always going to Europe and before he left on each trip he asked me to come with him. I can make sure it's paid for, he'd say. If they want me to come to their little get-together than they have to pay for you too. He said it'd be great for him to have me there at night, instead of having to go back to his room alone. We could eat in a sidewalk restaurant and check out the girls walking down the street. But I never went with him. I had paper to sell, and besides, I knew I'd end up being surrounded at some point by all those geniuses. Just think how boring that would have been.

The things Lawerence told me are saved. Rest assured. I know value when I see it, and how to keep it out of the wrong hands. I am not smart enough to say I understand the words he left behind. After studying over them for a while, I had my own thought, and if Lawrence is by chance watching me I hope he is fine with me saying that first, anyone interested in knowing what Lawrence left for us should practice holding on to everything they touch. Hold on with a grip as tight as you can generate, and cling to everything until you feel it slip away. Perhaps your feet will take you into a new room, or a limb is stretched to its limit and slips off your hand and bounds back into place, to vibrate and wait for leaves to sprout and rain to feed it. Do that until I can bring myself to bring Lawrence's words to you. Do it until you can curl on the floor like a sleepy cat. Then we will meet together again and I should be ready to bring the words to you.

Last edited by John Riley; 05-28-2022 at 03:59 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 05-28-2022, 01:00 PM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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cluster fuck —> clusterfuck

I enjoyed this, John. I particularly like the dog metaphor.
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  #3  
Unread 05-28-2022, 03:29 PM
Joe Crocker Joe Crocker is offline
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Hi John.

I found this absorbing, and enjoyed trying to figure out the relationship between these very different characters. The link appears to be a shared sojourn in a mental institute. (Sectioned for some depressive/psychotic PTSD condition?) The characters appear to have little in common apart from a shared circumstance where they save each others’ lives. That seems to sustain the relationship. I’m curious how that relationship played out. My own experience of relationships with men from different backgrounds than my own is that we try to find common ground in terms of our enthusiasms, football, music, politics, fatherhood. It seems that the characters here have a profound connection. “We'd had hundreds of talks over the years.” But what did they talk about? The Narrator is clearly reluctant to meet Lawrence on his home ground, among geniuses. So their special relationship is wholly between themselves and their singular shared experience. Intriguing.

I liked the promise made at the beginning that some deep secret about life is coming but is withheld at the end. Except that the final sentences (after “anyone interested in knowing what Lawrence left for us should”… ) do feel as if they are trying to grasp a bigger meaning. I wonder if you might try formatting them as a poem. It would give it more of a shiver I think.
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Unread 05-28-2022, 03:59 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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I wrote this very quickly. I'll restrain my tendency toward romanticism, but it did feel like my fingers were taking dictation. That's why the title is WTF is this?

I now have an idea for a second story and need to write it down. I have a weird relationship with writing stories. I started out writing them and moved into poetry and now I don't see much difference. I know that makes a determined defender of poetry want to swish out his sword, but in their core, once you pull away all the devices, they have the same soul, for lack of a better word. It's just I get timid when it's time to write them.

Thank you, Julie. I'll fix clusterfuck.

Joe, I am seriously relieved you find it worthwhile. As I said, It just happened. I am a bit confused as to what you say about the ending. I guess I'm being fogheaded. If you have time can you help an old guy out? Seriously, thanks for reading and your input.

Best
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Unread 05-28-2022, 04:50 PM
Joe Crocker Joe Crocker is offline
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Hi John

It's just that I thought the final sentences felt like a poem struggling to get out and that you might reformat them to make them more explicitly gnomic

eg

Hold on with a grip as tight as you can generate,
and cling to everything until you feel it slip away.
Perhaps your feet will take you into a new room,
or a limb is stretched to its limit
and slips off your hand
and bounds back into place, to vibrate
and wait for leaves to sprout
and rain to feed it.

I guess that poetry is not what your character would reflexively resort to. But on the other hand he feels he is possessed of something profound. A spirit has moved him. And expressing it in a more poetical form might show us how changed he is.
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Unread 05-29-2022, 07:19 AM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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That’s an interesting idea and it makes a good poem. Guess I’m being immodest but it does.
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